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Why it's important to show workers you care about their safety

Why it's important to show workers you care about their safety

Praising employees for getting work done by hook or by crook can give the impression that it's acceptable to cut corners with work health and safety for the sake of better business results, says Troy Hams of Provident Insurance Services.

Showing your workers that you care about their safety could potentially reduce accidents. If they know their health is more important to you than higher or quicker output, they won't take unnecessary risks. Risks that could, if they backfire, cost you far more in the long run. Here are a number of reasons why it's important to ensure your workers know you care about their safety.

Happier, more productive employees

Prioritising workplace safety boosts staff morale. Your workers will feel more confident coming to work knowing they're going to return home safely that night.

Strong workplace health and safety policies also increase productivity. Employees are more likely to be productive in an environment they know is safe. On the other hand, if they're worried they're going to get injured, or lack confidence in the safety of the machinery they use, they may be restrained from carrying out necessary tasks.

Greater awareness of workplace risks

It may sound obvious, but having a safety culture further increases overall safety and decreases accidents because people communicate better. If employees know that the business takes safety seriously, they'll be more likely to come forward about issues.

More fulfilled and engaged workers

Higher staff retention is another benefit of showing your workers you care about their safety. If a workplace is unsafe, workers will be more likely to leave in pursuit of a safer job. For example, there was a lack of workers to support the recent West Australian mining boom, which meant people were hired very quickly, without a lot of thought, just to fill a role. Often they weren't the right candidate for that job, or weren't trained sufficiently, which led to increased workplace accidents and workers' compensation insurance claims.

So how can you show employees that you care about their safety? Here are several steps you can take.

1. Communicate clearly

Ensure that workplace health and safety policies are clear, disseminate them widely and check your employees understand them. Make sure your workers know where first aid equipment is, and what your emergency evacuation procedures are. Hold regular fire drills to rehearse your evacuation procedures, and get feedback from safety officers on how effectively the rehearsals went.

2. Arrange safety training

Having regular safety training is important, especially if your business uses plant machinery. People do forget best practices with respect to safety, or may not have understood the correct processes the first time around. Ensure you supply and maintain the necessary equipment for your workers – from outdoor gear including sunscreen to ear plugs, hard hats and harnesses.

3. Appoint safety officers

Our business appoints safety officers who attend the St John Ambulance course every year, so they're trained to resuscitate people if necessary. It's also worth offering on-site training, such as a first-aid course, to give employees the opportunity to improve their safety skills.

4. Hold regular checks

Equipment does break and get patched up, and sometimes those repairs are less than safe. People can also become slack about safety processes. Having a foreman or manager regularly check safety guards on all plant machinery and encouraging people not to remove them can help prevent accidents.

5. Prioritise employee health

Healthy workers are safer workers. Make sure your employees have provided next-of-kin details and find out if they have any allergies as part of their induction. This is particularly important if you supply food for them, but it's also important to know if they have allergies to specific medication or are diabetic.

It may also help to offer health checks within your workplace – to screen for heart disease or skin cancer, for example. We give employees the opportunity for a nurse to come in and administer flu vaccines every year.

6. Keep your door open

Give your staff a forum to raise concerns about any work safety issues and appoint someone approachable and empathetic to oversee this function.

There are many ways you can show your workers that you care about their safety. Don't forget the office party – if you have a work social function, supply cab vouchers so people don't drink and drive.

The last thing anyone wants is for a staff member to be injured as a result of an avoidable accident. At the end of the day, people are more important than profits. If your employees know that, they will respect you for it.

Improving safety is an ongoing challenge for all organisations. Find out how you can communicate more effectively with your staff about safety.

Troy Hams is general insurance manager at Provident Insurance Services in Perth and an authorised Resilium Adviser. He is also a senior associate of the Australian and New Zealand Institute of Insurance and Finance and specialises in managing insurance portfolios for small to medium businesses.

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