An unexpected accident that causes serious bodily harm may result in a scheduled OHS regulatory body (Worksafe) inspection. Accidents that involve death or dismemberment will prompt a formal worksafe investigation. These post-incident OHS inspections can potentially result in hefty fines, mandatory upgrades and temporary business closure. Here are some of the best practices recommended for incident management preparation.
The first tool of incident management is ensuring proper documentation has been established and maintained. Creating safety policies and specific procedures for dealing with accidents is widely regarded as integral to effectively dealing with Incidents. Many employers add a statement on the job application regarding pre-employment drug screens for the purposes of safety. Every year, have supervisors review the various safety procedures and policies during employee meetings. Require that all employees sign and date that they have attended these meetings. Keeping a binder full of documented safety training sessions can represent a defence against a critical OHS inspector. Finally, it is recommended that all employees are put through a formal day safety training covering all OHS policies and processes along with the site rules and on the job training.
JSAs and SWMS are Legal Defences
Every safety program should include accurate and comprehensive Job Safety Analyses (JSAs). JSA simply looks at the work task and considers the safest way to complete it. It is one way of becoming aware of the hazards involved in completing the job and taking required steps to prevent injury. These documents are an effective way to proactively reduce safety and health hazards in the workplace. They should include detailed procedures on how to safely perform the task and they should identify the mandatory personal protective equipment (PPE). Be sure to have employees review and sign new copies of their updated JSAs during their annual performance reviews. Storing these in the personnel file is the best defence against lawsuits involving negligence.
Understand OHS Rules
OHShave in place specific record maintenance requirements that apply across all industries. The two essential documents that must be kept are the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, and the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses. These two documents are typically posted in the employee lunchrooms by HR managers. The Injury and Illness Incident Report, must be annually submitted to OHS. OHS requires certain industries to conduct mandatory training in specific topics every year. These commonly cover PPEs, fire extinguishers, emergency action plans and hazardous communication (HAZCOM). For example, OHS requires companies that make workers handle chemicals to provide them with material safety data sheets (MSDS).
Time-loss and Light Duty
OHS considers any time an employee misses work because of an injury to be a “time-loss” incident. The higher the time-loss number, the higher the workers’ compensation insurance rates will rise. Each state’s occupational safety agency ranks and publishes these statistics every year. Time-loss problems can be avoided through assisting injured employees return to work as soon as possible through a light or modified duty program. Doctors who see the injured worker and fill out the medical paperwork should complete a ‘release to work’ document that specifies duty restrictions. Sending them to the hospital with packets of information that include job descriptions will help the employee regain normalcy and their dignity.
The Ultimate Incident Management Tool
Most companies have a basic safety program, but this tends to be a collection of outdated safety policies and procedures. A certified safety program is one of the best ways to systemically reduce work hazards, improve worker safety and minimise accidents. Companies that voluntarily maintain an OHS-approved safety program may not have to worry about unexpected inspections. OHS’s most comprehensive safety program is called the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP). It helps companies implement effective safety and health management systems and policies. OHS provides the initial certification and returns every five years for a re-certification audit and inspection. There is also the AS/NZS 4801:2001 Occupational Health and Safety Program.
As a final note, always thoroughly investigate and document accidents. It is best to take proactive measures to immediately rectify the hazard before OHS and insurance inspectors arrive. This demonstrates a commitment to employee well-being and accountability.
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