Why do you need health and safety procedures in the workplace?

Workplace health and safety is the responsibility of every business and any individual with controlling power over a work area. Safe a work starts with effective, known and understood safety procedures across all levels of staff. Procedures provide workers, supervisors and officers with steps that they must follow in specific environments or situations, or when utilising pieces of equipment for work tasks.

What Are Safety Procedures in the Workplace?

Health and safety procedures in the workplace are a core of any HSE management system. The procedures provide systematic steps for complying and performing tasks in compliance with company policies, HSE management system and the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act). You can consider these procedures a set of actionable steps for managing risks and creating a safer work environment.

WHS procedures outline the requirements for complying with both external and internal compliance requirements. Company policies are often publishedand distributed to workers; ensuring that everyone understands his or her role in following the accepted work procedures. Some of the areas covered may include high-risk activities, such as:

  • Work at heights procedures;
  • Hazardous chemicals procedures; and
  • Infectious diseases procedures.

These procedures often incorporate WHS policies and procedures. For example, the steps outlined in working at heights training course provide the basis for assessing and managing risks when working at heights. Organisations then implement these standards in their own set of policies.

Why Do You Need Safety Policies and Procedures?

The primary goal of safety policies is to protect workers from foreseen or unforeseen risks. Every organisation has at least some form of a policy in place for assessing the safety of a work site and dealing with potential hazards. Along with these policies, there are governmental regulations that also need to be followed.

For many years, businesses followed the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) laws in their States or Territories. Due to variations between these laws, the government has developed a ‘harmonised’ process within the Work Health and Safety Act. The Act provides greater consistency in establishing workplace safety procedures for the identification and mitigation of risks.

The WHS Act also creates specific requirements for all types of businesses. Every person conducting a business or undertaking has a responsibility to identify hazards and mitigate or eliminate risks. Safety policies and workplace procedures assist workers and organisations fulfil their legislative responsibilities under the Act.

How Do You Keep Your Workplace Safe?

A detailed health and safety management system provides the most effective method of complying with health and safety regulations and keeping workers safe. The Work Health and Safety laws provide a framework for effective policy and procedure decisions within an organisation. However, organisations also need to implement their own HSE management systems for monitoring and improving their internal procedures.

Policies and procedures are just one part of keeping workers safe. A ‘standard’ safety management process includes:

  • Effective safety plans;
  • Policies and procedures;
  • Training and information; and
  • Monitoring, supervision, and reporting of hazards and risks.

A typical set of procedures may include health and safety practices for assessing the conditions of a work site before work begins. For example, workers may follow specific steps for hazard identification and then implement the best method for reducing risks based on the hierarchy of control. These procedures may also include conditions and processes for the reporting of hazards and workplace issues.

Besides minimising hazards, organisations should aim to improve the overall level of risk within their work areas. This is completed through detailed work area monitoring and supervision. Workers at every level should be involved in this process.

Workers that directly deal with the hazards are often best equipped to analyse the situation and find ways to either either remove or reduce the risk. Health and safety representatives can also assist in addressing the needs of the workers, ensuring that they receive the resources required to manage risks. However, it is up to senior management to implement procedures to ensure that every worker follows the same protocols.

Providing Information and Training to Workers

An integral component of a detailed safety management process is providing workers with necessary training to identify the risk in the first place. Some procedures can be followed without specialised training. However, there are many situations that require strict adherence to recommended WHS codes of practice.

To comply with the regulatory and legislative requirements of the Work Health and Safety Act, WHS training courses are often required. These courses cover the standards and recommended practices for dealing with specific conditions, including high-risk areas or areas deemed as ‘hazardous’. Whilst training is often needed, organisations also need to provide relevant information to workers to allow for risks to proactively identified.

The company procedures should be printed in a set of policies, guiding workers in proper behaviour in the workplace. Promoting safe work conditions should be the primary focus of these procedures. Every business should strive to eliminate or mitigate workplace hazards and comply with the regulatory framework of the WHS laws.

Keeping a workplace safe starts with initial assessment and identification of hazards. Employees need to understand the health or safety risks in their work environment. After assessing the risks, they can take steps to eliminate or reduce the risk.

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