Tap into Safety
By Dr Sue Bahn
We look at the latest research, reports and interesting topics to help health and safety, human resource and training managers in their efforts to keep every worker safe, every day.
Top Workplace Hazards in the Construction Industry
Managing workplace hazards in the construction industry is a top priority every day because the working environment constantly changes. There are often many different contractors working alongside each other. It becomes more complex in multi-storey construction, where work is carried out over several levels. Injury and fatality rates in construction remain high. Safe Work Australia report that in 2013–14, the construction industry accounted for 9% of the workforce. However, the sector was responsible for 12% of the total work-related fatalities for that year. In 2012–13 the construction industry had the 4th highest injury rate. In 2013-14 the industry had the 5th highest fatality rate. In this podcast, we discuss the top workplace hazards in the construction industry to guide your safety training themes.
April 15, 2021
How Are Workplaces Dealing With Mental Health?
There's a considerable focus on strategies to help workplaces dealing with mental health issues and the pandemic is placing pressure on them to do more. In the past, the focus has been on establishing that supporting the mental health of our employees is actually a workplace issue, rather than placing that in the realm of the individual's personal responsibility. Today, we are keen to learn what organisations are doing to support worker mental health, why they are doing it and their experiences of managing mental health issues in their workplace. For this podcast, we discuss some research, published last year, that investigates how Australian workplaces are dealing with mental health, the range of initiatives they are using and the barriers they encounter when introducing support programmes.
April 08, 2021
Do OHS Professionals Act As Moral Agents?
Occupational Health and Safety Professionals are required to draw on their ethics to make life-threatening decisions and act as 'moral' agents in their role. This is a particularly difficult task given they are bound by legal obligations to ensure a safe workplace and eliminate risk as far as reasonably practicable and at the same time support their company to ensure productivity and profit. This podcast discusses a chapter from the Body of Knowledge on Ethics and Professional Practice. We look at the legal obligations of the OHS professional, how they may act as a moral agent and the obstacles to ethical-decision-making. We finish with nine areas to consider when speaking up about OHS concerns to keep the discussion constructive.
March 31, 2021
Understanding the Hazards When Working With Moving Plant and Parts
Plant and machinery are present in most workplaces and working with moving plant or parts create exposure to the risk of injuries. The hazards associated with moving parts of machinery include the risk of crushing, shearing, entangling, trapping, hitting or abrading, or the uncontrolled release of pressure (energy). To successfully identify these hazards requires knowledge of how kinetic and potential energy and the interface between people and machinery that causes a loss of control of the energy. In this podcast, we summarise the chapter on Mechanical Plant that is in the BOK Core Body of Knowledge for the Generalist OHS Professional. The discussion draws on the safety hierarchy of controls to develop ways to protect people when working with moving plant. We conclude with some implications for health and safety practitioners.
March 25, 2021
Preventing Workplace Injuries and Controlling Risk
Controlling risk to prevent work-related fatalities, injuries, diseases and ill-health is the core role of the safety professional. Legislation governs the duty to control workplace risk and looks for organisations to do more than just compliance activities. A chapter published by the Australian Institute of Health and Safety explores the underpinning principles of controlling risk. The law does not require a risk-free work environment where accidents never happen, but instead requires employers to take such steps as are practicable to provide and maintain a safe working environment. The safety professional must consider controlling risk to decrease the probability or likelihood that hazards become uncontrolled and they need to mitigate the effects of the consequences of risks. Several principles underpin the strategies for controlling risk. This podcast summarises requisite variety, the hierarchy of controls, time-sequence approaches, barriers and defences, the precautionary principle and the socio-technical systems approach to controlling risk. We also offer control strategies that health and safety professionals can use.
March 18, 2021
Impact of FIFO/DIDO Isolation on Mental Health
FIFO/DIDO working arrangements are regularly used by mining and construction companies. There's a link between these working arrangements and declining mental health. For this podcast, we look at some research that was published before the pandemic that investigates the impact of psycho-social isolation which is common in remote work. This study finds that psycho-social isolation is a significant issue for FIFO/DIDO construction workers and that it affects several relationship levels. Given this was an issue before the pandemic, we can only expect that the problem has been exacerbated in the past 12 months. This research provides recommendations to improve the health and well-being of workers employed under FIFO/DIDO arrangements that may be useful in the current environment.
March 11, 2021
Can Shift Work Make You Fat?
Shift work is regularly under review because there is evidence that this type of working arrangement can see workers at risk of developing serious health issues because they fail to get enough sleep. One of the causes of disruptive or 'short' sleep is that sleeping times may not be aligned with the body's natural circadian rhythms. In this article, we explore shift work, sleep time preferences and the link to chronic diseases such as obesity, cancer, musculoskeletal disorders and declining mental health. The research is limited, but overall, there is a potential association between shift work and poor health.
March 04, 2021
Understanding Occupational Noise Hazards
For decades now we have understood the health impacts of noise and the long-term damage to our hearing. There is a requirement for workplaces to try to reduce noise levels to below 85 decibels if it occurs over an 8-hour period. You are not to expose your employees to a noise level above 140 decibels. However, hearing damage is related to the intensity of the sound, the nature of the sound (whether it’s continuous or intermittent) and the duration of the noise exposure. So long term exposure to low-level noise can also create permanent hearing loss. In this podcast, we summarise a Chapter on Occupational Noise by the OHS Body of Knowledge to provide the key concepts and advice to help you manage noise hazards in your workplace. We provide a basic understanding of acoustics and the factors that impact hearing loss and health together with the principles of noise measurement and control.
February 25, 2021
How Can You Best Manage Contractor Safety?
Contractor safety is now more than ever on the radar for many companies because this type of working arrangement makes up 10% of the Australian workforce. Contracting and sub-contracting has been around a long time and is a key component in industries such as construction and logistics. However, managing contractor safety is often a difficult task. The problem is contractors bring with them varying degrees of occupational health and safety knowledge, training and experience. Given that the safety of your contractors is the principal organisation's responsibility, how can you best protect yourself to make sure your safety records don't slip? For this podcast, I discuss four strategies that you can use to manage contractor safety around critical hazards.
February 17, 2021
Strategies to Manage Workplace Fatigue
Workplace fatigue is an area that is coming under even more scrutiny since the onset of COVID-19. Where organisations have always been concerned about workplace fatigue and recognise it as a hazard with possibly severe consequences, the pandemic is highlighting the rise in fatigue-related working conditions. For this podcast, we discuss recently revised chapter on workplace fatigue, published as part of The Core Body of Knowledge for Generalist OHS Professionals. This research is particularly useful because it looks at workplace fatigue through a risk management lens to outline the hazards and suggest appropriate controls. We also discuss the fatigue hazards associated with operating heavy mobile equipment, on-call work, the gig economy and flexible working times.
February 11, 2021
4 Myths About Mental Health Resilience
During the pandemic, we saw rising anxiety levels, increasing depressive thoughts and use of substances. Evidence is suggesting that mental illness is the pandemic within the COVID-19 pandemic. Interestingly, although COVID-19 has, and is, crippling many, it is likely that we will develop long-term resilience. New research suggests that actively cultivating social support, adaptive meaning, and direct prosocial behaviours to reach the most vulnerable can have powerful mental health resilience promoting effects. For this podcast, we discuss four common myths about resilience to provide strategies to build resiliency in individuals and the community as we manage and emerge from the pandemic.
February 04, 2021
How to Manage Work-Related Psychological Health
Workplace mental health is emerging as a critical issue especially since the arrival of COVID-19. There have been anecdotal reports that 80% of your employees are anxious, and suicide attempts have increased by 5%. They are worried about losing their job, many are isolated working from home, and they are incredibly concerned that they will catch the coronavirus. For this podcast, we unpack the recently published Draft Code of Practice on managing work-related psychological health from SafeWork NSW. The Code is a welcome step to support the journey for organisations to provide mentally healthy workplaces. Ensuring psychologically healthy and safe work helps organisations to meet their WHS legal responsibilities. It also contributes to a decrease in organisational disruptions and costs resulting from work-related harm and may improve performance and productivity.
October 21, 2020
The Critical Role of a Supervisor
You may be seeking promotion to the role of a Supervisor after serving time in your work team. You are likely a clear candidate if you either have excellent knowledge of the work that is done, are a champion of safe practice, have simply been there longer than anyone else, or are generally well-liked by your team. But promotion to Supervisor creates additional roles and responsibilities, and sometimes the leap is a challenge. For this podcast, we look at the role of a Supervisor in light of organisation, management, communication, and collaboration skills to provide tips to improve your effectiveness.
October 13, 2020
Effective Safety Communication Do's and Don'ts
Effective safety communication relies on well-developed skills. Good communicators use listening techniques and nonverbal strategies to improve their conversations. What you are doing in face-to-face communicating is taking what you want to say as it exists in your mind, converting or coding it into words and possibly gestures and sending the message in speech and perhaps signs. The receiver hears your words, and sees your gestures, and decodes them into what they mean to them. Unfortunately, communication breakdown occurs more often than not and the sender's message may be completely distorted by the time it is decoded by the receiver. For this podcast, we look at the different types of safety communication commonly used across organisations, the barriers to effective communication, and five areas that you can work on to improve your verbal communication skills.
October 06, 2020
Performing a Risk Assessment and Selecting Control Measures
The Australian Model WHS Laws require duty holders to assess and address risks in the workplace, but how do you perform an effective risk assessment? Once you have assessed the risks, what factors should you consider when determining which hazard control measures would work best for your organisation? For this podcast, we provide a step-by-step guide on how to perform an effective risk assessment in your organisation to keep employees physically and psychologically safe. We also discuss how to develop hazard control measures and ensure that they are effective and provide suggestions on how to successfully implement them.
September 29, 2020
Critical Safety Thinking During The COVID-19 Pandemic
We're in the middle of a global pandemic that is affecting every country differently, so where does critical safety thinking play a part? Now more then ever, we need clear decision-making, concrete responses and open-communication to keep ourselves, our employees and their families safe. At the same time, we need to keep our businesses operating to reduce further negative impacts on our economies. Government leaders around the world are working hard to keep ahead of the pandemic and to lead into the road to recovery. We're searching for a vaccine and at the same time effective treatments for the virus. While protecting the health impacts, we're also juggling the economic consequences of shutdowns, restructures and reductions in services of whole industries such as tourism, hospitality and entertainment. For this podcast, we discuss critical safety thinking in this time of the global pandemic to help Leaders and Managers lead during the crisis and beyond.
September 22, 2020
Preventing and Addressing Workplace Sexual Harassment
Addressing the issue of preventing employees from being sexually harassed in the workplace is an area of concern for many organisations. Although COVID-19 has much of our focus elsewhere, topics such as these that impact mental health continue unabated. The Australian Human Rights Commission conducted a national inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. Their focus is on achieving respect for all employees with one-third of employees reporting in the past five years that they experience sexual harassment at work. For this podcast, we delve into the Respect@Work report to look at the current context in which sexual harassment occurs, what is currently understood, what it means for your business and primary prevention strategies that we can use.
September 15, 2020
Best Tips to Motivate Your Employees
How do you motivate your employees in the middle of a global pandemic? Some of your team are working from home, and as a Manager or Leader, you might be as well. Some are working on split rosters where they work at home for several days and only come into the office occasionally. As a Manager or Leader, you need to ensure that your employees are productive, but at the same time not overworking. Some employees are not only trying to work from home, but also manage homeschooling and small children. How do you ensure their mental health is ok? We discuss how to tap into the three areas of motivation: purpose, social recognition and the work environment. We explain extrinsic and intrinsic motivation and provide the best tips to motivate your employees. We conclude with a discussion on employee mental health and strategies for Managers and Leaders.
September 08, 2020
Why People Use Bullying Behaviour at Work and How to Prevent It
Bullying behaviour at work has serious consequences on the organisation's culture and your employee's mental health. It seems that workplace bullying may be triggered by poor working conditions. Research shows role conflict, workload, and lack of social support are related to bullying behaviour at work. For example, very poor working conditions may create stress reactions and feelings of frustration where some employees may display poor performance or rudeness. These reactions can fuel retaliation by their co-workers and superiors. Workplace bullying behaviour is a complex issue and why people are targeted is an ongoing theme for research. Bullying victims report long-term psychological and physical health changes. For these employees, bullying includes the spreading of rumours and repeated insults aimed at changing the image of the victim that results in feelings of guilt, shame and diminishing self-esteem. For this podcast, we discuss some of the more recent research to identify how workplace bullying affects employee mental health and what it means for your business. We suggest the primary, secondary and tertiary anti-bullying interventions that organisations can draw on to prevent workplace bullying, support victims and reduce the long-term effects.
September 01, 2020
Workplace Hazards and the Hierarchy of Controls
The hierarchy of controls is a risk management tool used around the world to manage workplace hazards. NIOSH and OSHA use the following flow: Elimination – Physically remove the hazard Substitution – Replace the hazard Engineering controls – Isolate people from the hazard Administrative controls – Change the way people work Personal protective equipment– Protect the worker with PPE In Australia, Safe Work Australia includes an additional high-level action of: Isolation - whereby we isolate the hazard from people. When putting the hierarchy of controls to work you need to consider which hazard control measures would work best for your organisation. Safe Work Australia recommends that you start by looking at the codes of practice and guidance material; information from manufacturers and suppliers of plant, substances and equipment that you use and reference materials from industry associations and unions. For this podcast, we discuss the hierarchy of controls and how to develop effective hazard control measures. We provide suggestions on how to successfully implement the control measures to ensure your employees remain safe while at work.
August 25, 2020
Safety Climate Affects Safety Perfomance
Much has been written about workplace safety climate and the impact on employee safety. This podcast discusses job stress and hazard recognition in terms of your organisation's safety climate. Job stress negatively impacts safety performance, hazard recognition and safety risk perception levels. The level of safety climate in an organisation directly correlates with their ability to recognise hazards and the importance they assign to them in terms of safety risk. Employees who perceive greater job stress and where the safety climate is low are more likely to engage in deviant work behaviour that violates significant organisational norms and in so doing threatens the well-being of the company and its employees.
August 18, 2020
How Can We Safely Work at Height?
Safely working at height is critical to keep your employees from falling to the ground, the level below or into holes such as trenches and service pits. Ideally, we should complete work at ground level, but in many instances, that is not possible. Because so much of the work we do requires employees to work at height, organisations must put in safety measures and train in safe practices. For this podcast, we bring together three articles that we have written about the topic to discuss safely working at height means and the measures you can take to keep your people safe. We discuss the latest statistics, eliminating work at heights at the design stage to perform the work on the ground, platforms, guarding, safe ladder use, personal fall protection equipment, and maintaining 3 points of contact. We finish with 8 working at height safety myths to challenge your thinking.
August 11, 2020
What You Need to Know To Conduct a Safety Audit
The words "safety audit" often have managers and employees cringing. Although the task may be daunting, the main benefit of regularly conducting audits is that they assist in the continuous improvement of the organisation’s health and safety procedures. For this podcast, we provide the underpinning questions behind any safety audit, what you need to do to prepare, and how to select an unbiased, balanced team. We help you to determine the scope of the safety audit and list a series of questions your team should ask during the safety audit. We discuss how to collate your safety audit data, understand the information, document improvements and create positive change.
August 04, 2020
What Are the Best Manager Actions for Employee Mental Health?
In this podcast, we investigate the signs of declining mental health for stress, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, psychosis and substance misuse. We recommend some actions managers and supervisors can take to help their employees who may be struggling.
July 28, 2020
Tips for Writing a Job Safety Analysis
A critical process in managing risk in your workplace is writing a Job Safety Analysis. What to include and how much information you need when writing a Job Safety Analysis remains a question. In this podcast, we provide a six-step process for writing a Job Safety Analysis to guide you when managing high-risk tasks.
July 21, 2020
How To Write an Engaging Safety Induction
All organisations have a duty to onboard new employees, but many fail to deliver an engaging safety induction. New employees need to understand the risks and hazards associated with working in their role in your organisation. This podcast provides some handy tips to help you to develop and deliver an engaging safety induction to not only meet your compliance requirements but also to help to reinforce safe behaviour.
July 13, 2020
Outcome of the Brisbane Auto Recycling Industrial Manslaughter Case
We discuss the ruling of the Brisbane Auto Recycling Industrial Manslaughter Case and what it means for organisations in terms of prosecution and fines for workplace fatalities. We offer 8 tips to help you to protect your organisation in light of the Industrial Manslaughter Laws.
July 08, 2020