SAI Global reveals work place oversights that risk employee safety

The recent fatality in Melbourne where equipment collapsed and struck a worker raises calls for sectors deemed as high risk to ensure they have robust workplace safety systems.

Policies are not enough. Such incidents can often be avoided by having a workplace safety management system that directs appropriate safety procedures.

These standard safety operating procedures and safe work method statements also need to be regularly reviewed and updated. SAI Global has audited, certified and trained many companies.

SAI Global recommends ISO 45001 standard

Companies in sectors deemed as high risk by Safe Work Australia, such as construction, logistics and manufacturing need SAI Global to help them meet the ISO 45001 standard for occupational health and safety management systems.

Saeid Nikdel, an expert at SAI Global says, “The most common and significant workplace safety oversight by organisations is lack of a management system directing their workplace safety.”

“Companies have set workplace health and safety procedures, supported by an OHS policy which is simply a statement that can be the framework for the company’s OHS commitments.”

“The management system is a set of business processes and documentation which control the conditions and factors that affect the health and safety of all interested parties in the work place and facilitate organizations to avoid their injuries and illnesses.”

“Many organisations have a management system that conforms to an outdated OHS standard.”

“Conforming to ISO 45001 integrates workplace health and safety into the organisation and ensures the commitment of the company leaders and the participation of workers.”

“ISO 45001 is the most effective standard for minimising risks and hazards to deliver a safe and healthy workplace for employees, contractors and other people in the work place.”

“A company’s risk of liability should it be faced with a workers’ compensation claim reduces.”

Safe Work Australia shows an average of 183 workplace fatalities in Australia annually. The recent Melbourne worker death brought Victoria’s workplace fatality toll in 2021 to 16 in May.

Regular training of employees on ISO 45001 standard

Health and safety management systems direct procedures and processes for training staff and provides a structure to monitor and report workplace conditions.

System maintenance will minimise the likelihood of any hazards and risks being missed that could lead to a workplace injury or worse, a fatality. SAI Global has identified the key mistakes organisations make in their health and safety management systems.

Within their management system, a common oversight by companies when it comes to workplace health and safety is a failure to address workplace safety at regular intervals.

Often, employees are run through health and safety procedures in the onboarding process.

Saeid says it is imperative that health and safety communication informs any verbal and informal prestart, or regular toolbox and safety meetings are scheduled and held, so that the responsibilities of all staff members remain fresh in their minds. 

“Companies must inform workers of the health and safety policies, objectives, processes and procedures, including their contribution to the effectiveness of the system,” says Saeid.

“Often, a ‘set-and-forget’ process is deployed, and some of the knowledge can be lost.”

The implications and consequences of lacking a system that conforms to ISO 45001 are undesirable in case of serious injury and death for employees.

The financial expense for a company found to have either not done enough to educate staff on their health and safety responsibilities, or created an unsafe environment for their staff through inaction is disastrous.

“Education can equip staff to identify a hazardous work environment and gives them the ability to avoid work situations that present an imminent danger to their life or health,” says Saeid.

Team work in harnessing the ISO 45001 standard

Another common oversight by organisations is making it the responsibility of one person. A major incident may occur when that person happens to be on leave.

Creating a team in the organisation that is well versed on the management system ensures that there will always be someone available to step up and take control in an emergency.

“Regular inspection and auditing of health and safety is key, as is job safety analysis and task-related assessments, to identify and rectify potential hazards before they do any harm.”

Other factors, such as prolonged monotonous work or high-intensity work rates, can cause fatigue, which is a major contributor to workplace incidents.

Organisations can improve OHS performance by not having staff doing intensive or laborious work for long stretches at a time without sufficient breaks.

Within an ISO 45001 management system, there are a range of other control measures and procedures an organisation can take to create a safe workplace. These include

  • Ensuring that only those with a permit to work in certain areas can access those areas.
  • Conducting regular ergonomic and other injury prevention-related assessments.
  • Integrating OHS requirements at the earliest stage in the lifecycle of facilities, equipment or process planning for facilities relocation, process re-design or replacement of machinery and plant.
  • Using new technologies to improve workplace health and safety performance.
  • Improving OHS culture by encouraging workers to report incidents in a timely manner.
  • Improving visibility of top management’s support for the OHS management system.
  • Enhancing the incident investigation process.
  • Benchmarking, including consideration of both the organisation’s past performance and that of other organisations
  • Collaborating in forums that focus on topics dealing with workplace health and safety.

In combination, these measures ensure that an organisation’s reputation as a safe workplace is promoted, and can have more direct benefits, such as

  • Improving its ability to respond to regulatory compliance issues.
  • Reducing the overall costs of incidents and injuries.
  • Reducing downtime and the costs of disruption to operations.
  • Reducing the cost of insurance premiums.
  • Improving morale, as well as reducing absenteeism and employee turnover rates.
  • Recognition for having achieved an international benchmark.