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Invest in expertise to reduce massive payout risk

Work-related injuries and illnesses have cost the Australian economy more than $60 billion in the past year.

The latest report on OHS statistics from Safe Work Australia found there were over 133,000 workers’ compensation claims for serious work-related injuries or illnesses in 2008-2009. The highest incidence rates were recorded by the transport and storage, manufacturing and agriculture, and forestry and fishing industries.

Ray Bedson, OHS trainer at SAI Global, said employers must invest in resources and expertise to create suitable risk plans to reduce the rate of workplace injuries.

“Best practice OHS-risk management plans identify existing known hazards, measure and rank them, and outline simple and practical controls. They’re developed by managers who understand their workplace surroundings, and who received comprehensive training on implementing OHS management systems. Every plan should simplify company processes and bring them into real-life situations,” Bedson said.

Bedson has seven key steps to help managers develop a plan:


A risk plan can’t be carried out once and put aside. It’s an ongoing commitment. All employees – not just OHS and risk managers – must be on board over the long term. In an organisation of 100 employees, a risk or OHS manager may need to commit 80 hours per month, while remaining employees may need to commit another 120 hours per month collectively.


At least monthly, ask employees to recall any previous injuries and incidents – including near misses – and discuss why these happened. Encourage them to be vocal about potential hazards and the things that make them nervous, particularly where operational changes have taken place. Some employees don’t see the risks in the same way you might, so another tactic is to follow and observe an employee’s work for a few hours, and have discussions around safety – you will soon get a clear snapshot for potential hazards.


Note all the identified hazards on a Workplace Inspection Checklist – any employee can perform this in their own area. Writing it down makes it harder to ignore, and it lets your team know you’re considering solutions to any issues.


Use a Hazard Identification, Risk Assessment & Control (HIRAC) format to score each risk from negligible to extreme. Take into consideration the likelihood of an incident occurring and the level of consequence that this could have. This will allow you to prioritise your actions. HIRAC or Risk Assessment forms are available from your industry association or statutory Work Safe or Work Cover authority.

Control and consult

It is best to implement a control that will eliminate the risk altogether, or minimise it through an engineering solution such as noise reduction. Note them down on the HIRAC form. Consult again with employees to ensure everyone agrees. Getting them involved will help ensure they implement the controls when the time comes.

Monitor and review 

To determine if your processes and controls are effective, and reducing incidents, review them at least monthly. Compare the number of incidents and their level of significance. If there has been no improvement, it’s time to re-think your plan.

Train new employees

Awareness is the first step in controlling hazards, employees who are new to the workplace, inexperienced or untrained are particularly at risk. Investing in their training and development can do more than just protect your business financially and legally – it can save their life. The most effective OHS risk management systems are practical, logical, and simple to implement and understand. Don’t develop overly detailed plans with confusing forms – these discourage use and, before you know it, workplace hazards are

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Gina Baldassarre

Gina Baldassarre

Gina is a journalist at Dynamic Business. She enjoys learning to ice skate and collecting sappy inspirational quotes.

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