Australian workers turn to training courses as their first source of work health and safety (WHS) information, a new survey reveals.

The Safe Work Australia survey reports the three main sources used by Australian businesses in 2014 to get information about WHS requirements were government documents and publications (33 per cent), the media (32 per cent) and employer/industry associations (31 per cent).

Conversely, the most common source for Australian workers was training courses (39 per cent) followed by the media (29 per cent). For health and safety representatives and WHS professionals the most common sources were government Acts/regulations and publications (42 per cent) and employer/industry associations (38 per cent).

The media was the most used source of WHS information for employers and sole traders operating in the agriculture, forestry and fishing and accommodation and food services industries.

Employer/industry associations were the most used source of WHS information for employers and sole traders operating in the manufacturing (42 per cent), construction (44 per cent), road freight transport (43 per cent) and health care and social assistance (58 per cent) industries.

In 2012 the most common source was the media.

Dissemination channels

Workers were provided with information or notified about WHS policies and procedures during a walk around the workplace alone or with other managers (68 per cent), through informal communication with workers (54 per cent) and during meetings on work health and safety with management and through notice boards (35 per cent each). Thirty seven per cent of businesses indicated they informed workers through other means.

Across the priority industries for sole traders the media and experience/doing the job itself tended to be common sources of learning about work health and safety. For employers in priority industries there was a great deal of variation in how they learnt about work health and safety.

Industry pamphlets and newsletters, the media and the internet were commonly utilised. Across the priority industries the most common source of learning about WHS for workers was training courses.

Training courses have been a popular source of learning about WHS for workers overall over the past 10 years. The media has consistently been an important source of WHS information for all worker groups (excluding CEOs in 2001). Since 2010, the internet has become an increasingly popular method of learning about WHS.

Importantly, 24% of manufacturing employers indicated they gave no information regarding WHS policies and procedures to their workers, followed by 18% in agriculture, forestry and fishing and 17% in road freight transport.

In 2012 employers most commonly provided to their workers or workers obtained work health and safety information during a walk around the workplace either alone or with managers and through informal communication with work mates about WHS.

Employers commonly provided information about WHS part-time/casual workers and full-time workers. One third of employers indicated that they provided WHS information to contractors/ sub-contractors.

Employers operating in construction and transport, postal and warehousing were more likely to provide information to contractors/ subcontractors and to apprentices/trainees than employers operating in the other priority industries.

These surveys include responses from 1052 employers, 520 sole traders and 1311 workers (2012) and 706 sole traders and 1644 employers (2014).

The data were weighted to produce national estimates of the number of businesses and workers in Australia that hold particular attitudes and perceptions about work health and safety.

Sole traders relied slightly more on the media and internet (28% and 26%) than government documents and publications (24%). For employing businesses, small business employers used government documents and publications (41%), employer/industry associations (40%) and the media (37%) with employers in medium and large businesses using government documents and publications (53% and 69%), employer/ industry associations (46% and 70%) but used the internet (39% and 47%) rather than the media.

Of some concern, 19% of sole traders indicated no sources are used to get information about WHS.

Medium and large business employers tended to learn about WHS from somewhat different sources. Half of medium business employers learnt from employer/industry associations followed by industry pamphlets/newsletters and experience/doing the job itself (38% and 33%, respectively). Almost half of large business employers also learnt about work health and safety information from employer/industry associations, followed by government Acts/ regulations and publications (43%) as well as training courses and government health and safety inspectorates (33% each).

In agriculture, forestry and fishing the information about WHS was learnt from Industry pamphlets/ newsletters (45%), media (41%) and experience/doing the job itself (39%).

In manufacturing half of employers indicated that they learnt about WHS from the media, followed by industry pamphlets/newsletters (39%), experience/doing the job itself and training courses (39% each).

In construction, half of employers learnt about WHS from employer/industry associations followed by industry pamphlets/newsletters (41%) and health and safety representatives (37%).

Over half (59%) of employers in accommodation and food services learnt from experience/ doing the job, followed by posters/ signs/ notices (42%) and industry pamphlets/ newsletters (39%).

In transport, postal and warehousing employers reported learning something about WHS from the internet, supervisors/ managers and experience/doing the job itself (38%, 37% and 32%, respectively).

In health care and social assistance employers most commonly learnt about WHS from the internet (41%), industry pamphlets (38%) and the media (35%).

AlertForce provides a range of WHS training courses for employers and workers. For details, go to www.alertforce.com.au