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Work Health and Safety

Whilst much of our conversation in this column extends to the recruitment and retention of your greatest asset – your team – we tend to focus on everything but a glaringly obvious driver for their happiness in your organisation: safety.

After much discussion around safety in the workplace during 2012, it is an opportune time to visit this all-important topic before it gets completely overlooked and you and your business come under further risk.

Whilst owning a business has its perks, one of the challenges is in the area of maintaining your responsibility regarding health and safety in your workplace, and ensuring that your workplace does not create issues of this nature for your team, your customers or the public.

Now if you haven’t taken a look at the OH&S laws, I have another read for you; the new Work Health and Safety laws. Both of these will help you avoid unnecessary costs and damage to your business as a result of injury and illness, and don’t forget it helps your team too. Oh, and by the way: they’re no longer that new!

So according to ‘the Australian Business Government’s principal business resource’ business.gov.au, an employer is required to provide:

  • safe premises
  • safe machinery and materials
  • safe systems of work
  • information, instruction, training and supervision
  • a suitable working environment and facilities.

Safe Work Australia has identified that for the period 08/09, the total economic cost of work-related injuries and illnesses ($60.6 billion estimate) was the equivalent of 4.8 per cent of the GDP. Whilst we cannot identify how much of this came from the real estate sector, we can draw an easy conclusion that we contributed in some way.

As a business owner, it’s time to get smart about WH&S and minimise this contribution. Let’s consider your business model and how you have factored WH&S into your business planning and your everyday life by posing a few simple questions, and perhaps giving you some much-needed homework.

1. Reviewing your current compliance with workplace safety requirements
Sometimes you need an outsider to ensure that the rose-coloured glasses are removed and the faults are seen for what they are.

2. Rectification plan for any non-compliant matters
This may involve simply spending cash, or creating policies for company activity/workflow, amongst other things.

3. Induction programme surrounding WH&S for your workplace
Remember, whilst your next recruit may have 20 years’ experience in the industry, they don’t have 20 years’ experience in your office – and I can tell you that common sense may not always be that common. Demonstrating the intricacies of your business will go part way towards minimising risk.

4. Process for receiving team feedback for WH&S challenges
How is discussion around challenges of this nature taken in your office? Are they encouraged, embraced, or hidden away? Whilst not every point requires action as each must be judged on its own merits, it is important to note that as business owners it’s hard to have our eyes everywhere.

5. Temporary and casual staff require WH&S too!
When having temporary or casual staff in your office, remember you have obligations around WH&S here too. What is your process for inducting temporary staff into your business, and do you provide any resource for them to get up to speed with your WH&S processes? If someone is only in your office a week, there are still levels of responsibility for their health and safety – so make sure you are fulfilling them too!

Of course this list is by no means extensive, and in true legal fashion you shouldn’t take it as ‘advice’ but merely a point in the right direction. It is always recommended that you seek independent legal advice around your business’ individual WH&S requirements, as every situation and business is different.

Often we think about our processes, our procedures and our people merely in terms of the nature of our business and the business outcomes, forgetting that without a healthy and safe environment we wouldn’t have a business at all. Real estate career developers do not claim to be experts in the field of WH&S, but over recent months we have heard too many stories for us not to encourage you to explore this area further for yourself.

For more information about Work Health and Safety visit www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au or www.business.gov.au/BusinessTopics/Occupationalhealthandsafety.

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