Bay Post-Moruya Examiner

The hidden dangers lurking in your workplace: Are you prepared for the legal fallout?

Hidden dangers lurking in the workplace. Picture Shutterstock.
Hidden dangers lurking in the workplace. Picture Shutterstock.

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As an employer, you no doubt want each and every one of your staff to return home safe at the end of each day. Yet while this sentiment is admirable, it is only through consistent and dedicated adherence to workplace health and safety (WFS) measures that this can be achieved.

Not only do all employees deserve to work in a safe workplace, but the long-term success of your business relies on it. With employers liable for maintaining workplace safety, any injury or worse, fatality, can see businesses facing severe legal and financial consequences.

For this reason, ensuring you have identified any hidden dangers and taken active steps to mitigate the risks associated with your workplace is essential, both for yourself and your staff.

What we know, statistically speaking

So just how frequent are workplace incidents, what are the hidden dangers and what does this mean for the businesses involved?

A work-related injuries survey carried out in 2021-22 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that 497,300 (3.5 per cent) of the 14.1 million people who had worked during the last 12 months experienced a work-related injury or illness.

While as a percentage this may seem small, the impact of these incidents on businesses, the economy and the Australian healthcare system is far-reaching and extremely costly.

Most common workplace injuries

According to data collected by Safe Work Australia, body stressing (injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones) caused by falls, slips and trips or being hit by moving objects are the cause of most work-related injuries in Australia.

This means that even the simplest things such as leaky taps, items stored on the floor, improper ladder use and any other myriad of everyday occurrences can cause a workplace incident. It is these hidden dangers that are so often overlooked that can quickly see a business becoming non-compliant with WHS.

As a business owner, if you have failed to uphold compliance with relevant WHS legislation and an incident occurs, legally, you will be held accountable. This fallout could see you losing your business altogether and facing financial ruin, with fines running into the hundreds of thousands.

Even the simplest activities can cause a workplace incident. Picture Shutterstock
Even the simplest activities can cause a workplace incident. Picture Shutterstock

The importance of proactive compliance

A common complaint raised by businesses regarding WHS is that it is too hard, complex or expensive to comply with. However, none of these complaints will save your business from facing significant legal consequences in the event that a worker is injured.

Indeed, even being able to demonstrate that you have complied in the past won't help, only a proven record of proactively assessing WHS requirements and adherence to these is beneficial.

The good news is that businesses do not have to undertake these assessments and navigate compliance without assistance. Specialist experts in this field such as Your Safety Partners, offer WHS/OHS consultants who can guide employers through every aspect of this important process.

Why expert help is a wise investment

WHS and OHS legislation are subject to change and several industry-specific guidelines must also be taken into account to achieve compliance. Understandably, someone inexperienced with this legislation may feel overwhelmed or confused about what is required or how to train staff in upholding it.

Opting instead to engage an expert to conduct a safety audit, advise on necessary changes, develop staff training modules and manage other key WHS requirements is ideal. This removes any perceived burden over achieving compliance while also pinpointing and mediating any hidden risks in your workplace.

Protecting your rights and theirs

Investing in WHS and seeking professional help aids in protecting your staff in the workplace while also helping to prepare your business to defend itself legally should the unexpected occur.

While accidents and illnesses related to workplace environments may not always be avoidable, your business can avoid legal fallout by consistently pursuing compliance and engaging expert guidance if needed.