A safe workplace is no accident. Maintaining a workplace that is free of injury requires the cooperation of everyone involved. By taking steps to ensure that procedures that ensure the health and safety of all present are followed, a safe workplace will not only be a goal, but a reality.
The Basics of the WHS Management System
The Work Health and Safety Management System or WHS system (also known as an OHS System) is put in place to ensure that best safety practices are followed on the worksite. This system allows for the creation of specific safety goals, policies and objectives and creates procedures to be followed in the case of a breach.
All management associates and staff are required to be briefed in the OHS management system and understand its key safety components.
The first step in implementing a WHS or OHS management system is to conduct training with your staff. Each department will have a separate training that addresses its unique needs.
Warehouse staff, for example, will receive training on the use of forklifts and other machinery related to their jobs. They will also learn how to remain safe while performing on loading docks, how to bend properly to avoid injury and proper safety when using ladders.
If your staff is required to earn licenses for each of their competencies, this training will address those needs as well. Creating a spreadsheet that lists each staff member along with their required training is helpful in keeping this data organized.
You will need to make regular updates to the training schedule to meet the needs of new hires, those that are changing departments and those that are taking on new job responsibilities. Your WHS management plan should outline how often training is to occur and who is in charge of delivering and managing this training program.
Drug and Alcohol Use
Drug and alcohol use can be especially problematic in the workplace. Employees who abuse substances while on the job are more susceptible to injury and can cause injury to others around them. If your employees are working in an environment in which they are responsible for the safety of others, it is especially crucial to develop a comprehensive drug and alcohol testing program.
How to Implement an Effective Testing Program
Your WHS management plan should include protocol for testing for drugs, alcohol and other controlled substances. There are no hard and fast rules about how and when to test, but the key is to test consistently. Test all of your new hires before allowing them to start work. If there has been an on the job injury, test the injured employee before they leave the worksite. This will protect you from liability should the employee sue the company.
Random drug testing is highly effective in both deterring drug use and catching offenders. If your staff never knows when they will be tested, they will abstain from substances during the hours they will be in the workplace. Since some substances remain in the body for a prolonged length of time, they may discontinue the use of substances altogether.
Holiday workers can present their own unique set of challenges that should be addressed in your WHS management plan and OHS Management System. First, due to their temporary nature, it is necessary to train them in a shorter timeframe than their permanent counterparts. Secondly, holiday workers tend to be younger people and students who are simply taking on additional projects for extra money, so they may be less experienced than their career-oriented peers.
- Training your holiday staff means working closely with this unique population to ensure that there are proper safety principles in place.
- Holiday workers tend to be inexperienced. Don’t assume that they know the basics.
- Holiday workers may need more supervision or the opportunity to shadow a trained worker. Figure this into your budget.
- Holiday workers tend to be younger and take more risks. They simply don’t believe that accidents can happen to them. Deliver incentives for following safety rules.
- Give clear instructions, both verbal and written and encourage them to ask questions.
Planning for Emergencies
Emergencies are bound to happen from time to time, and being prepared for them will help you to react appropriately. Your safety management system should cover procedures in case of fire, flood, acts of terrorism, active shooter situations and natural disaster. Common examples of these safety elements include:
- Identifying means of exit in a fire, and explaining these to your staff.
- Recognizing the signs of a flood and designating locations where your employees can flee to safety.
- Understanding who to contact in an emergency.
- The Dos and Don’ts of reacting in an active shooter situation.
- How to account for all of your employees in an emergency.
Designate one staff member as the contact person for emergency planning. This person will be tasked with training your staff onthe procedures and making sure these safety actions are carried out in the event of an emergency.
When it comes to developing an occupational health management system or a workplace health system in your company, having a firm plan with clear protocol in place is key. Spell out the terms of your plan and make sure that this vital safety information is shared with all of your management, vendors and staff.
There are several methods you can use to test your employees for drugs and alcohol. Some companies choose to test their employees in-house using prepared kits. This method saves time and money and will allow you to get more accurate results. It also prevents employees from being able to alter their bodies in order to “beat” the test.
Others use outside contractors to test their employees and send all staff member to this vendor for testing. This has the added advantage of cost saving, as you will not be required to designate any of your staff for this purpose.
Whatever method you choose, be sure that the exact testing protocol is outlined in your WHS management plan and is available to your staff.