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Investing in a safety climate… what works and how?

Workplace Safety

While many of us would be aware of the negative consequences of poor work, health and safety, including a loss of productivity and medical costs, you may
not realise that work-related injuries and diseases have been costing our economy close to 5% of GDP or $60.6 billion in 2008-09  according to Safe Work Australia. Increasingly, organisations are investing in multi-faceted WH&S programs that aim to reduce workplace accidents and injuries and promote healthy lifestyle and behaviour choices at the same time. Do they work?

Looking at our staff data finds that the aged care organisations we work with generally received satisfactory staff ratings on work, health and safety (average of 87%), but Bankstown City Aged Care (BCAC) easily outperforms the rest of the industry. In BCAC’s most recent staff survey, 98% of their staff reported that keeping high levels of health and safety is a priority of the organisation, which puts them at 12 percentage point above the industry average. For their efforts, BCAC has seen a 60% reduction in workers’ compensation premium over the last 8 years.That makes me wonder, what does a high safety culture look like?

“98% of their staff reported that keeping high levels of health and safety is a priority of BCAC”

Fostering A Safety Culture

Latest research in this area suggests that in order to achieve a high safety Culture organisations should:

safety climate recommendations

Fostering Workplace Safety in Practice

I recently caught up with our contact at BCAC and met with their WH&S committee to find out how they were achieving their results. Managing and improving safety is a key priority for BCAC; the majority of their staff are often involved in manual handling and can be exposed to high levels of psychological stress at work. Over the last 8 years, BCAC has significantly increased their focus in WH&S such that it now becomes part of their everyday work. They have established a WH&S committee that includes a dedicated officer, and meets monthly to investigate safety incidents and implement appropriate solutions such as training, purchasing new equipment, and updating processes.

In addition, BCAC introduced:

  • processes and checklists that enable staff to identify and report safety hazards
  • quarterly external audits of the environment and WH&S practices to identify safety risks
  • a mixture of mandatory and voluntary training that covers topics such as identification and reporting of hazards, causes of workplace accidents, and use of Personal Protective Equipment
  • a log of all safety related incidents and accidents at BCAC
  • ergonomic assessments for office staff and regular breaks to do stretching exercises

Outcomes From A Safety Focus

It is clear that they have gone above and beyond the traditional compliance mindset that still prevails in an average organisation. However, Michelle Doyle, Business Support Manager, admitted that it hasn’t always been a smooth ride, there were times when they faced resistance from staff and managers and had to gain buy-ins through demonstrating return on investments, mentoring and training.

As a result of the continuous efforts of their WH&S committee, BCAC staff now have a greater awareness of safety issues and their role in reporting and preventing safety incidents. Staff also demonstrate a greater willingness to report safety incidents at work. These have translated into measurable changes such as more than 60% reduction in workers’ compensation premium over the last 8 years. In BCAC’s most recent staff survey, 98% of their staff reported that keeping high levels of health and safety is a priority of BCAC, which puts them at 12 percentage point above the industry average.

It’s encouraging to know that they will continue to invest in WH&S and expand their efforts into promoting psychological well-being. I can’t wait to see their next set of survey results!

Click here to access our action guide on safety and read more about BCAC’s story.

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