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Why Communication is the Best Tool for Safety

Whoever first said that “silence is golden” was obviously not talking about safety measures. As employers struggle with ways to keep their workplaces as safe as possible, there is one method that has continually been proven to be the best possible tool for keeping employers and employees safe. This method is called communication, and it can save your company time, money, and grief. Yes, it’s true, a little bit of talking can go a very long way when it comes to preventing workplace accidents and injuries.

The key to making sure that your employees know what to expect in terms of safety standards, and what they should expect if your company’s standards are not being met is to educate them. Hold a staff meeting and explain to them a little bit about the safety standards that are being put into place. Teaching your staff about workplace safety, important safety procedures, and the legal codes and standards that they are being held to will ensure that they do not have an excuse for being sloppy. It also helps create a workplace environment that is more focused on safety, and more focused on being educated about what they do.

It’s also important to cultivate an environment where staff members feel safe (or even obligated) to report health and safety hazards that they see. As an employer, you cannot be everywhere that your employees are. You cannot be there to witness all the things that your employees do, no matter how hard you try. This means that you have to rely on your employees to tell you about the important things that you cannot be present to witness. Many, many workplace hazards that have caused accidents and even deaths could have been avoided if employees felt like they could openly discuss their concerns. If you have been having a hard time encouraging your staff to talk about the hazards that they’ve noticed, offer a reward program for those who keep a vigilant eye.

That being said, it’s important that your employees also get educated on their rights as your staff. You need to make it very clear that they have a right to a safe workplace, and that they have a right to feel safe while they are doing their job. This is especially true for companies that focus on industries that have been known to have high accident rates, such as coal mining, manufacturing, and construction. Many business owners who have been successful in reducing the number of accidents in their companies have made an effort to communicate with their staff about their rights to a safe, clean work environment.

It is also important to teach your staff about the hazards of workers compensation fraud. Your staff need to know that committing fraud is a crime, and a traceable one at that. Much like with the issue of workplace hazards that your staff may have seen, it’s important to make sure that your staff feel comfortable with the idea of reporting workers compensation fraud to you or your insurance company. It’s important that they realise that they will be rewarded for their honesty, and that it may help save their jobs as well as the jobs of others.

No matter what front you are fighting in the war against unsafe work environments, it’s important to maintain an open line of communication with your staff. Effectively communicating with your employees may save you a lot of hardship when it comes to the problem of workplace accidents, and it will also make them view you as a better boss.

Categories
General

Paying Staff Correctly and Keeping Up with Changes

This month’s Reader’s Request came from a client who is concerned about ensuring that they are paying staff correctly and keeping up with increases when they occur.

I was delighted to get this question as many employers pay the bare minimum, sometimes not even the award rate, and end up in strife not only with the employee they should be paying but also the Fair Work Ombudsman.

It is often thought that as long as the employer pays the award rate that they are in compliance, however, this is not always the case. Unfortunately, the Fair Work Ombudsman deals with breaches with penalty rates, overtime, incorrect classifications, and not meeting the requirements of providing payslips on a regular basis.

In recent years companies even as big as McDonalds, Super AMart, No. 1 Riverside Quay Pty Ltd (a retail company who employees 400 workers), have all fallen to noncompliance in regards to payment of wages. Each breach can be worth $6,600 and up to $33,000 for a corporate employer and others, such as managers, can also be penalised.

In  January 2012 there were several workers in the Riverina area that were back-paid a total of $71,400 following intervention by the Fair Work Ombudsman, due to 13 employers breaching workplace laws in regards to incorrect payment of wages. One individual, who was a salesman from Wagga, had been underpaid by $38,200 over a period of 20 years.

Therefore, it pays to get it right and here are our tips to help you keep on top of it:

  •  Know and document the awards and classifications that you employ under and what penalty rates that may be applied, this includes meal breaks and leave entitlements. For modern awards, this information can be found here: http://www.fairwork.gov.au/awards/pages/default.aspx.
  • Utilise the tools on the Fair Work Ombudsman website to find the right pay and to check pay rates using the calculators such as PayCheck Plus and Pay Rates Calculator.
  • Subscribe to the pay rate updates for the awards that apply to your company, for modern awards you can subscribe here. Alternatively, if you are a financial member of industry or business associations, such as NSW Business Chamber and other industry associations (retail, hairdressers, etc.), they will often send out wages updates too.
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General

Contractor Management

Recently I have been getting a lot of queries about contractors and what we should be supplying them and what they should be supplying us if we contract work to them.

The management of contractors has changed under the new WHS legislation and are now considered as “Workers”. So when reading the Act, regulations or any codes of practice and you see the term “Workers” you need to remember this now includes contractors and subcontractors.

When organisations/businesses engage in using contractors or subcontractors they are still required to provide a work environment without risk to health and safety, maintaining safe systems of work, providing information, instruction, training and supervision to protect them from risks to health and safety in work carried out for your business, plus now they must also consult with them on work health and safety matters.

Under the WHS legislation, contractors are also defined as Persons Conducting Business or Undertaking business (PCBUs) meaning that they have a responsibility of their workers who could be employees, subcontractors or trainees, and in some cases even visitors.

 When managing contractors it is important to always:

  • Provide a site, workplace and area induction, providing them with information of any risks, site safety standards and emergency procedures.
  • Check they hold current qualifications to carry out the work required i.e. tickets, licensing, certification.
  • Request copies of the Safe Work Method Statements for the work being carried out.
  • Request a current copy of their insurances that are applicable to the work they are doing i.e. worker’s compensation, public liability, etc., prior to allowing them to commence work.
  • Include them in toolbox meetings and safety meetings, where possible.