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Why study Workplace Health and Safety?

By Guest Post | 16 October 2018

When it comes to the workplace, organisations tend to take the health and safety of their employees very seriously—and with good reason. According to Safe Work Australia’s most recent report, between 2003-2016, 3414 workers lost their lives in work-related incidents—that’s an average of 20 deaths per month every year.

While alarming, these statistics shed light on the importance of safe work practices in minimising the risk of injury and death.

One of the best ways to stay on top of Work Health and Safety laws in Australia is to complete a relevant certification course. Becoming certified ensures that you are across all the recent legislations and changes while also adding an extra layer of credibility to your experience.

In this post, we’ll go over some of the reasons why WHS training is important, and how you can better equip yourself to understand its role in the workplace.

construction workers checking out site

It’s a legal requirement

The likelihood of incidents occurring in the workplace varies depending on the industry, however accidents can happen at any time. That is why protocols are required to ensure the safety of all workers across an organisation.

Many of these protocols are now legal requirements, so it’s important to be across them and be able to implement them within the organisation’s existing processes. A certified course will provide you with an understanding of the Work Safety Act 2011 and all the regulations that must be adhered to.

Under this Act, “a person conducting a business must ensure the health and safety of workers in the business, so far as is reasonably practical”. ‘Health’ is defined to mean physical and psychological health.

An employer’s duty of care includes providing:

  • A physical and psychosocial work environment without risks to health and safety
  • Safe systems of work
  • Information, training, instruction or supervision necessary to protect all persons from risks to their health and safety.

It’s costly if it goes wrong

Workplace injuries and fatalities are one of the biggest expenses for organisations. Safe Work Australia states that "the total economic cost for the 2012–13 financial year is estimated to be $61.8 billion".

warehouse employees running safety inspection

Other significant costs when WHS protocols fail include penalties and compensation. Poor safety procedures can also impact a business through reduced worker productivity and low morale. However, there is a wealth of emerging evidence indicating that successful health and wellbeing programs can actually save money in the long-term. For example, one report on the economic return of workplace health and safety programs found:

  • A decrease sick leave absenteeism by 25.3%
  • A decrease workers compensation costs by 40.7%
  • A decrease disability management costs by 24.2%; and
  • A saving of $5.81 for every $1 invested in employee health and wellbeing.

Meanwhile, research by Comcare finds the lowest workers’ compensation costs are found in teams where good leadership and organisational environment foster a work climate where employees feel supported and experience high levels of positive wellbeing.

WHS is a changing landscape

WHS also covers an employee’s overall wellbeing, including their mental health. Reports point out that workplace health and safety anti-bullying laws, and anti-discrimination employment laws already focus on high standards of behaviour. According to an article by Smart Company new laws ought to mandate that employers report incidents of harassment under workplace health and safety provisions.

Additionally, health and wellbeing programs help to attract quality employees who value their personal health, which can have a positive effect on employee retention. For example, 60% of employees surveyed by the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses in 2003 regarded wellness programs as a good reason to remain with their employer.

Unhealthy workers are the least productive

Research has found that healthy workers are more productive than unhealthy workers. Healthy workers are also more likely to rate their work performance as much higher than unhealthy workers and have fewer short-term absences.

office employee working with cast on arm

According to an Australian study, the combined effects of self-rated work performance and absenteeism, they found that the healthier employees are almost three times more effective than the least healthy. This data shows that, if left unchecked employee health can have serious consequences on an organisations’ overall productivity and end up costing more in the long-term.

Australia’s workforce is aging

Australia is experiencing an aging population. In the Australian Public Service (APS) sector there has been a steady increase in the representation of workers over the age of 45. Older workers are more likely to develop chronic illnesses and disabilities and are considered more vulnerable to workplace accidents. Therefore, initiatives that support older workers are becoming increasingly more important.

Investing in WHS training for your staff is essential to the success of an organisation. Ensuring a safe workplace is just as much about the company as it is about the people who work there. By studying WHS and becoming certified, you’ll be well-equipped to understand the laws, processes and challenges of workplace safety.

To learn more about WHS training and certification check out our list of WHS courses.

For more advice on your career, be sure to check out more of our career-related articles here on SkillsTalk.

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