Apart from the obvious injuries and death, penalties and compensation associated with workplace incidents, there are significant indirect costs when WHS systems fail. Poor safety performance can have a large impact on business operation and performance - often as a result of reduced productivity and low morale.
It is also important from both a legal and moral perspective to have WHS systems in place. Under the 2011 Work Health and Safety Act, a person conducting or undertaking a business must, so far as is reasonably practicable, ensure the health and safety of workers in the business.
‘Good work is good for you’, and there is strong evidence to show that good worker health and wellbeing boosts organisational health and business performance. Conversely, chronic disease or bad safety standards negatively affect worker productivity - and those workplaces suffer a number of associated costs.
With the alarming rise in the number of work-related accidents in recent years, protecting your employees has never been more important.
According to recent Safe Work Australia Work Health and Safety (WHS) statistics, one in 25 Australians suffered from work-related injuries in 2015. And out of these injuries, more than 70 per cent occurred in the following four industry areas: Transport, postal and warehousing; agriculture, forestry, and fishing; construction, and manufacturing.
It is a proven fact that when organisations have clearly explained and well-understood WHS processes in place, their staff members are much less likely to suffer from workplace injuries. And that isn’t the only benefit.
Good WHS practices can also enhance brand value, improve employee loyalty, decrease business disruptions, and promote corporate social responsibility (CSR). And when a company promotes safe working conditions, this also translates to better profitability - and not just through savings associated with a reduction in accidents and subsequent loss of business. Recent research has shown organisations that placed emphasis on being socially responsible through WHS saw a market value increase of around two per cent.
Another area of benefit affects those businesses that operate in high-risk industries. By having a good safety record they are able to attract high quality job applicants, as well as demonstrate their commitment to corporate social responsibility.
There are many other business areas that benefit from good WHS policies and the introduction of effective safety programs. These include:
• More productive work environments
• A reduction in absenteeism
• Better working standards and conditions
• Happier and more satisfied employees
• Reduced employee insurance claims, and better business perception
The introduction of safety programs can also help companies win and retain new clients, as well as creating an environment where workers feel like they are part of the safety solution. However, there is one area that has historically ‘lagged behind’ in WHS applications.
Evidence has consistently shown that when compared with larger firms, Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) perform badly when it comes to WHS. One reason for this is the tendency for SMEs to view WHS as a cost or a regulatory requirement that has to be complied with - rather than an investment or part of good management practice. Another reason is that SMEs often face more intense production pressures than other businesses - thus limiting their ability to respond to these pressures. However, evidence has shown that where SMEs do put in place the relevant WHS policies and procedures - their commitment to WHS can be achieved cost effectively - and in a way that supports business performance.