Anyone who sets out on a journey to start their own business knows that it can be an exciting yet terrifying time.
With so much to think about (and pay for) it can be tempting to put workplace, health and safety on the back burner. However, if you were to prioritise which activities could cost you most to ignore, WHS would definitely be closest to the top of the list.
From the moment you open your business, you are considered a PCBU or “person conducting a business or undertaking”. From a legal standpoint, you are now a duty holder, and the same laws that apply to the largest corporations in Australia also now relate to you. You may not need to have the same complex and detailed WHS systems as these organisations do, but (by law) you must do everything “reasonably practicable” to ensure workplace health and safety. Failing to do so can have serious physical and financial consequences, and can even result in jail time.
Regardless of the type of business you have started, here are 5 steps to help you get started:
- Create policies
A policy is simply a documented course of action. What action do you take when a certain situation arises? This may include training and induction policies, emergency response policies, equipment maintenance policies, and so on.
Every business is different, though documenting your policies early on is not only beneficial from a WHSE perspective; it’s beneficial for running an effective business.
- Keep staff informed
Consult with employees and ensure everyone in your business understands the potential risks and hazards within your workplace, and your policies and procedures for dealing with those risks.
Make WHSE reviews frequent and consultative.
- Identify and manage risks
It is important to consider all of the possible risks and hazards you, your employees, and your customers may face as a result of your business. You should also be aware of any risk policies that relate to your industry, either via Codes of Practice or Australian Standards.
Create a policy for handling and removing immediate hazards, such as the SAFE system:
Spot the hazard, Address it, Fix it Early.
- Make training a priority
WHSE training and Emergency Preparedness Testing are essential for most businesses, and beneficial for all. A few hours of official training can mean a world of difference in the event of an actual emergency, or if you get audited after a serious incident.
Don’t let workplace health and safety standards slip – no matter how busy things get. Be sure to carry out regular safety checks, handle chemicals or dangerous substances in the proper way, keep records, and continually review incident procedures and reporting processes.
If the unthinkable should happen, an audit will seek to determine whether you took all reasonable and practicable steps to avoid it. If you can prove that you have, then the likelihood of serious financial or legal consequences is significantly reduced.
Here is a quick checklist to help you get started:
- Do you understand your WHS obligations?
- Have you created policies for health and safety, such as: Hazard Identification and Management, Training, Incident Reporting, Emergency Planning and Response?
- Do you have the appropriate insurances?
- Are there safety data sheets for the chemicals you use?
- Have you had electrical items tested and tags?
- Do you have a schedule for workplace equipment checking and maintenance?
- Do you have proper systems in place to eliminate/minimise hazards and risks?
- Do workers understand their responsibilities and your policies, processes and procedures?
- Have you organised WHS training?
- Do you have a system to regularly review work practices?
WHSE Consulting can help you create, implement and manage your entire WHSE strategy, including: WHSE systems, policies, procedures, training, emergency preparedness testing, incident management, and more.
For a no-obligation chat about how to get your new business off to a great WHSE start, call Steven on 0438 932 115 or contact WHSE Consulting.