How to Manage Workplace Health and Safety Risks

Manage-Workplace-Health-and-Safety-EmpowerIT

Workplace health and safety has never been more critical for Australian businesses. While corporate companies are not usually as hazardous as those in more labour-intensive industries, there are still some inherent risks with the job. Even outside the context of the pandemic, other risks affect businesses, ranging from disasters to mental health problems. 

Fortunately, there are things businesses can do to identify, assess, and control these risks. We’ve created this guide to help you do just that. 

Identify workplace hazards

The first thing you need to do is observe your work environment and practices for anything that may result in workplace health and safety issues. Corporate businesses, in particular, should watch out for the following hazards: 

  • Pandemic – hazards that may increase transmission rates like little to no social distancing and mask-wearing in the workplace  
  • Ergonomic – such as poor sitting posture and screen positioning 
  • Electrical – from frayed live wires to overheating hardware
  • Fire safety – hazards that stem from a lack of evacuation procedures, fire extinguishers, and smoke detectors installed in the workplace
  • Physical – including excessive exposure to loud noises and poor indoor air quality
  • Tripping – often caused by poor cable management and cluttered workspaces
  • Mental health – like bullying, strict deadlines, and work-related fatigue

In most cases, a thorough inspection of your workplace will allow you to identify potential hazards. Using government-made checklists like the COVID-19 Workplace Checklist can streamline your assessments. Having a professional conduct a workplace inspection may also help you uncover threats (e.g., electrical and fire safety) you weren’t aware of.  

Of course, some hazards are not always so visible. Risks like burnout, poor ergonomics, or bullying can quickly go overlooked, especially if people are working remotely. The solution is to encourage your employees to report any health and safety concerns they may have. Setting up anonymous online work surveys is a great way to protect employees who want to report interpersonal issues and health risks without causing internal conflict. 

Perform risk assessments

Risk assessments consider what harm could happen to employees if they are exposed to specific hazards, the severity of liability, and the potential number of people who will be affected. All of these will help you determine which risks to address first. The severity of harm can run the gamut from minor injuries to severe illnesses, debilitating health issues, and even death.  

What’s more, risk assessments must evaluate the probability of harm occurring because of particular hazards. For example, employees who work every day with suboptimal ergonomics have a higher risk of suffering from wrist pain, stiff neck, and chronic back injuries.

Conducting risk assessments can be as simple as discussing employees and key decision-makers. However, you may need to conduct special risk assessments for more technical matters like fire safety, mental health, and pandemic health inspections.  

Establish health and safety control measures

Once you understand your company’s health and safety risks, you need to implement appropriate measures to address them. Problems like tripping hazards and loud noises can be dealt with instantly through cable management, decluttering policies, and noise-cancelling headphones. In contrast, some issues require a bit more planning and investment. 

For instance, managing COVID-19 risks requires both isolation and administrative controls. The former involves frequent cleaning, temperature checks, physical barriers between coworkers and customers, and contact tracing procedures. Meanwhile, administrative controls for pandemic hazards refers to setting up company-wide policies on social distancing, general hygiene, and mask-wearing.

With issues like electrical, fire, and ventilation hazards, you may have to seek professionals to fix electrical systems, recommend fire safety devices, and implement better air filtration systems. Additionally, if employees are going through tough times, it’s wise to have counsellors and support systems to protect your team’s mental health.

Develop a business continuity plan

When your business faces an increased risk of getting hit with natural disasters, or accidents, employees won’t be able to operate safely in the office. Business continuity plans allow you to prepare your company for these major setbacks while keeping your employees safe. 

In case of a fire or flood, your business continuity plans should outline procedures for evacuation, alerting emergency services, and notifying personnel to work in an alternate operation centre. Pandemic-focused continuity plans will differ from those tailored for natural disasters. More specifically, they push for remote work policies, ensuring employees have adequate home office environments and encouraging online collaboration tools. Business continuity experts like Empower IT can assist you in formulating a plan to keep workplace health and safety risks to a minimum. 

Train your employees

Various ongoing training programmes are necessary to ensure that everyone is working safely. You can host online seminars on general safety, remote work best practices, and ideal home office desk setups to give you some ideas. Instructing employees on dealing with burnout and teaching them respectful workplace interactions can significantly reduce mental health hazards.

Employees who work in the office may need special training on sanitising common work areas and social distancing. During training, you need to supervise your staff through one-on-one meetings and reports to make sure they actively minimise safety hazards. 

Review your control measures

Workplace health and safety shouldn’t be an afterthought. To reduce workplace risks, you should constantly be improving your control measures. This means performing regular inspections, updating your training, and testing your business continuity plans. If you uncover new hazards or specific business continuity strategies that don’t work for your business, you’ll have to customise your control measures. Remember that any significant changes to operating procedures or staffing may also require you to set up new safety measures. 

When managing health and safety risks, consider the complex components such as business continuity and remote work. If you want to set up workplaces that can thrive amid a global pandemic, Empower IT can help you. We provide robust technology solutions to help your teams stay connected, productive, and safe. Call us today.