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Is your business equipped to save a life?

When reducing your overheads is top of the agenda, initiatives like employee benefits, extracurricular staff training, or restocking workplace resources are often the first to go.

By overlooking these types of items, however, you could be putting your business and staff at risk. It’s no secret that businesses are doing it tough – with hundreds of job cuts at large companies regularly making news headlines, it’s also a fact that small businesses are feeling the crunch as well.

With this in mind, it makes sense that businesses are currently prioritising activities that will have a direct impact on their bottom line. However, what often happens is that when the focus becomes purely sales driven, other business areas are left exposed.

It’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind. By neglecting the so-called “extras”, your business could be exposed to potentially serious consequences that have wider ramifications for business growth, staff morale and reputation. An example of an area where businesses may find themselves exposed is the duty of care owed to employees and members of the public.

While larger business often have a dedicated OH&S staff member keeping tabs on workplace safety, smaller businesses don’t usually have the manpower. The risks are just as high though, and you need to be aware of your obligations.

What would happen if one of your staff members suffered a cardiac arrest in your workplace? Would your staff know what to do? How about if a customer was experiencing a severe allergic reaction? Would anybody be equipped to step in?

It’s easy to think this would never happen in your workplace but the fact remains that a “ticking time bomb” exists in businesses across our nation. It’s not adequate enough to simply have a first aid kit tucked away on site; employees need to be first aid trained and feel confident to act.

It’s a sentiment echoed by our nation’s work health and safety body, Safe Work Australia, who has introduced a new Code of Practice changing first aid responsibilities for business owners. Currently being rolled out across most states and territories (with the exception of Victoria and Western Australia, however the Code could be adopted in the near future), the Code provides workplaces with a guideline for becoming “first aid ready” under the Work Health and Safety Act. However, our biggest concern about the new Code is its awareness – we’ve found only 35 percent of employers even know it exists.

In fact, only 15.6 percent of small and medium businesses are first aid compliant. This means these businesses are not providing their employees with access to adequate first aid training, first aid resources and first aid procedures and drills – the three core areas the new Code addresses. Across the board Australian workplaces are in an even more volatile place with only 13 percent of all workplaces first aid compliant.

Working with leading Australian law firm Lander & Rogers, St John Ambulance Victoria has looked at the consequences for businesses who do not meet their first aid obligations. While penalties vary in each state and territory, Lander & Rogers has advised that businesses risk significant financial liability and reputational damage and case law has also shown that fines and even prosecution are very real penalties.

Spending on the so called “extras” now seems a drop in the ocean compared to the potential risks you face, not to mention the knock-on effects such as lessened staff morale if an incident happened and your business wasn’t equipped to respond.

The benefits of a safe workplace are countless. It’s not just about the physical safety of your staff and patrons – a safe workplace often equals a happy workplace and ultimately satisfied customers and increased sales.

It’s time to act when it comes to first aid. When was the last time you reviewed your first aid procedures, restocked your first aid kit or refreshed your staff’s training?  All businesses should aim to demonstrate best practice in first aid. After all, it could save a life.

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Theron Vassiliou

Theron Vassiliou

Theron Vassiliou is the Deputy Chief Executive Officer at St John Ambulance Australia (Victoria). Having worked for St John for almost six years, Theron leads the commercial activities of the organisation. This includes managing the provision of first aid to the government, corporate Australia, retailers and consumers. Proceeds from the organisation’s commercial activities are reinvested back into the community through St John community programs including equipping Victorian students with first aid training and gifting local sporting clubs with lifesaving defibrillators.

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