Health and Safety has been around for years and in the past we’ve relied on that old chestnut of “Common Sense”, sadly common sense just isn’t that common but not because there are a lot of people out there who have no clue but more because it doesn’t actually exist in the first place.
Think about it, everyone has different life experience, different teachings from their parents, different groups of friends and family who influence them and different job experience, so expecting everyone to have enough knowledge about everything to keep them safe is just not going to work. Experiences sometimes result in good results, or painful ones, and so commonsense is a learned behaviour and does not just automatically ‘happen’.
Enter the Health & Safety At Work Act 2015 which has been upgraded from the previous act in an effort to reduce accidents, reduce workplace deaths and make sure that those than own businesses are aware of what they should be doing to ensure the safety of their staff, why do we have this new legislation? Because common sense wasn’t working.
Simply put, if you own a business you need a health and safety plan and if you have staff you REALLY need a health and safety plan. Relying on common sense doesn’t work, putting your head in the sand doesn’t work either and neither does thinking “it won’t happen to me” or “no one’s going to tell me how to run my business”, the fact is that if something does happen and you are found liable the subsequent fines imposed may ensure you don’t have a business left to run.
Having staff increases the risk of an accident within your business and even if you don’t have staff having contractors on site will do the same, both create an increased likelihood of something happening and despite several organisations insisting you just need to have good communication and not to worry about documentation I can assure you from personal experience this is not going to cut the mustard if you find yourself on the receiving end of a WorkSafe investigation.
I’ve worked with dozens of businesses and the two things that comes up regularly are “we’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years but haven’t got around to it” and “it all seems a bit too hard really”. A Health and Safety plan doesn’t need to be complicated but it does need to be thorough and understood by all in the workplace. Yes there will be some paperwork, yes it will take time to set up, but once in place it should just be a case of doing and gathering evidence of what you say you do.
A generic plan is a good start and better than nothing but you should have a good working system that you can understand and that reflects your business and the way you run it. Your plan needs to be specific to what you do because no two businesses have the same risks or hazards, no two businesses are run the same way.
If you’ve read this article and your still thinking “nah, I don’t need a plan, I’ll just wing it”, maybe you’ll be ok, maybe one of your staff won’t roll your tractor or put your quad bike into a gully or get hurt handling stock, or get poisoned spraying herbicide without a respirator, or fall into the effluent pond and be overcome by methane fumes. Maybe. But what if something like that does happen?