According to the latest Australian Worker’s Compensation statistics, the number of serious worker compensation claims amounted to 104,770 and the median compensation paid for a serious claim increased by 30%. Naturally, companies are adversely impacted when their employees are injured. Many employers may feel responsible for their employee injuries and will also find themselves with some significant financial costs. Onsite injuries not only lead to lost hours and productivity but can also affect the work culture. Employees work well when they’re healthy, but they work even better when they feel safe.
The importance of reducing worksite risk
Every job always has a component of risk involved. Risks cannot be entirely avoided, but they can be controlled and mitigated. It is the site manager’s responsibility to identify potential risks, forecast the appropriate response, and take the right course of action as needed.
Here are some types of risks to consider:
- Working around heights: Working conditions that involve heights are always risky, and almost anyone is prone to freak accidents. These falls often lead to significant injury and can result to site closures which can delay operations. Nevertheless, the percentage of accidental falls happening in workplaces have significantly decreased. Over the last decade, the amount of fatalities from falling has decreased in half. Much of this has to do with new recovery processes and mandatory safety equipment required to be worn in work sites.
- Moving heavy objects: Moving and lifting weights that are too heavy can lead to muscle and spinal injury, hiatal hernias, and back problems. For the most part, this can be avoided through better employee safety training. Employees must be properly trained so they’ll know the right way to lift and secure heavy items.
- Harmful materials: Dust, asbestos, and other harmful chemicals can lead to health problems. Sometimes, these problems may not occur until after exposure. Both employee training and safety equipment is essential, from goggles, masks, and other protective gear.
- Slipping, tripping, dropping, jamming: These are often as a result of employee error or fatigue but are more likely to happen on a dangerous or an unfinished work site. Note that even the best safety training can’t prevent all accidents when the environment itself is unsafe.
- Noise and loud vibrations: Noise and vibration can lead to hearing problems, which can become a life-time problem for employees. The government has enacted special safety standards to protect against this, such as ground vibration limits.
- Collapsing foundations: If there are structural issues onsite, foundations may collapse and there may be other potential safety issues. Workers can be severely injured if the foundation collapses, a roof falls in, or when walls collapse.
Because risk factors cannot be entirely eliminated, care must be taken to ensure that they are reduced. Work site coordinators have to be especially conscientious about their safety processes. This means following work safety protocol and other best practices onsite.
1. Risk assessments
It goes without saying that regular risk assessments are a necessity to manage onsite risk and limit injuries. Risk assessments are used to analyse the situational and environmental conditions of projects, identify hazards before they become problematic, and to suggest corrections. Corrections can range from new processes on the worksite to implementing correct safety training and procedures. Risk assessments can help to identify and address all the above types of onsite risks.
There is no set requirement for when risk assessments must be done, it can often depend on the project. Traditionally, risk assessments in the past have been completed at regular intervals as well as any time a risk is cited. On a construction site, it is important for site managers to perform risk assessments regularly (such as monthly) as the site evolves overtime. Modern business practices often call for a risk assessment to be completed whenever a site is visited by supervisory staff.
Apart from standard risk assessments, frequent task analysis is also a necessity. Task analysis ensures that the right employees are doing the right jobs, and that these employees are capable of doing them and are well-trained. Checking for this type of competency ahead reduces the overall risk.
2. Employee health checks
Are your employees healthy? Employee health checks are an incredibly important component of risk management. Nevertheless, it’s often overlooked. A sore knee or a sore back means that an employee could injure themselves even more significantly onsite.
And it doesn’t have to be an injury. Fatigue is a major onsite risk. When employees aren’t getting enough sleep, eating properly, or seeing the doctor often enough, they can become distracted or weak. This can ultimately lead to a larger number of onsite accidents.
Employers can help employees stay healthy through our onsite health check. An onsite health check will ensure that employees are performing their best. It also seeks to catch illnesses and injuries before they become even more problematic. Your employee’s personal health and onsite risk go hand-in-hand; if you want to control risk, you have to make sure your employees are physically fit to do the job right.
3. Safety training
Most injuries happen because employees have been improperly trained or are not following their safety training. This underscores the importance of regular onsite safety training. Employees need their safety training periodically refreshed.
Over time, the landscape of a project changes. The site itself changes, duties change, different tools are used, and new equipment is acquired. It’s hard to always be prepared, especially if training has not been updated.
In 2016, 90% of serious workers compensation claims were due to injury and musculoskeletal disorders. Musculoskeletal injuries can be significantly avoided through injury prevention training. This involves small tips and tricks which can largely reduce the risk of onsite injury. It is the organisations role to educate, train, and empower its employees to work in a safe manner when onsite.
SafeSpine is our injury prevention program created to reduce the risk of onsite injury by increasing employee knowledge and awareness on how to prevent injuries and stay healthy.
By learning appropriate injury prevention practices, such as preparing the body for physical labour, employees can reduce the chances of serious injuries.
4. Creating a culture of safety
Why might an employee fail to follow their safety training? Why would they neglect their health or fail to report injuries? In many cases, it’s because the organisation has not established a culture of safety. Construction sites are dangerous — it’s important for an organisation to take an active role in promoting safety and health.
Employees must feel safe when coming to the workplace. Even though your insurance might cover the cost of injuries, it does not cover the loss of frightened or demotivated staff. Your company culture cannot be created in a day; it has to be built from the top down, and it needs to be consistent.
Safety must be discussed frequently in a transparent, open manner. Frequent team safety meetings should be held, and employee concerns should be addressed. If employees have a personal injury, they should be encouraged to share it with the team. From there, the team can work together to compensate for the injury.
In regular meetings, employers should provide an open forum for employees to discuss safe practices. Employees can discuss potential risks and what other employees have done to mitigate this risk. All of this encourages employees to work together for their own safety and for the safety of others. If an accident does happen, employers should acknowledge the accident and management should discuss what could have been done to prevent it.
Risk assessments, employee health checks, and safety training all work towards creating a safe company culture. With a culture of safety, employers can encourage employees to take better care of themselves and to reduce their own risks. Not only will this boost the company’s bottom line, it will lead to a happier, healthier staff overall. Contact us today to find out how Vitality Works can help to create a culture of safety in your organisation.