Evolution Of The ISO Safety Management System
Safety management has come a very long way in Australia since the late 1700s, when the country was colonised. Life was pretty harsh back then, and workers laboured for long hours in terrible conditions for little pay, afraid to ask for anything more.
By the 1830s, the country’s labour force was starting to find its voice, largely due to the formation of the trade unions. By the 1890s, strikes were commonplace, but many workers were still killed or horrifically injured in workplace accidents.
Amazingly, there were no real improvements until 1956, when an accident on a building site changed everything. As workers hoisted buckets of hot bitumen up to the roof of a five storey building, a bucket fell, spilling its contents over one of the labourers. he sued the employer, and the case ended up in the Australian High Court.
Avoiding Unnecessary Risk
The worker won, and the court decided that the employer had a duty “to take reasonable care to avoid exposing the employee to unnecessary risk of injury”.
The release of the Robens Report in 1972 was an important milestone in Australian occupational health and safety, and today’s legislation is largely based on those same regulations.
But still over 6300 people die each day from work-related accidents or diseases – that’s nearly 2.3million every year. The burden of occupational injuries and diseases is huge, for both employers and the wider economy, resulting in losses from early retirements, staff absence and rising insurance premiums.
Having said that, the development of ISO safety management systems has been a major breakthrough and, currently, Australia tends to use either OHSAS 18001 or AS/NZS 4801.
Creating A Safety Culture
Today, we have technology on our side in developing better Safety Management Systems, but it is still largely down to cultivating the right workplace environment. Both employers and employees must take responsibility for safety.
Of course, it is much harder to prove a worker is at fault, so the onus is generally on the employer, who can face huge fines and even imprisonment when things go wrong.
Like any other Standard or management system, an SMS starts with a full understanding of the organisation’s business, processes, risks and targets. A tailor-made management system will then put in place the tools and procedures needed to achieve those goals.
There needs to be a new safety culture, where everyone, from management to the shop floor, supports the system and takes responsibility.
Clear Benefits For Organisations
As with most management systems, enthusiasm for the process increases as results become evident. This then results in many benefits for all concerned.
A major issue is staff morale. Once they feel that their health and safety are being taken seriously, staff are generally happier and more productive. Already we are seeing increased efficiency, and reduced costs, as workers increase output and take less sick leave.
An ISO Safety Management System is generally put in place in collaboration with specialist consultants, who can develop a tailored SMS for that organisation, provide training and help achieve certification.
Up until 2012, workplace health and safety laws were known as Occupational Health and Safety laws. These laws differed across Australian states and territories. So, to make the laws more consistent across the country, the state and territory governments agreed in 2012 to develop model laws (WHS Act and Regulations), on which they could base their health and safety laws.
Responsibility On Employer And Employee
Under these laws an employer must know and understand the laws, and ensure all stakeholders are safe, including employees, customers, visitors, contractors and so on.
The employer is legally obliged to provide safe work premises, assess all possible risks and take action to ensure they don’t occur, ensure the safe handling of materials and machinery, and ensure insurance and workers’ compensation insurance is in place.
At the same time, employees must ensure they comply with the health and safety instructions they are given, use provided safety gear, use machinery and equipment as directed, not put others at risk, and not wilfully injure themselves.
Clearly, in ensuring all that is done, ISO safety management system training is a key requirements, and is usually developed and implemented in line with the SMS itself.
Safety Affects Business Success
SMS professionals, such as Standard Consulting in Brisbane, understand that business success depends on the occupational health and safety of employees. If an organisation delivers poor performance in this area, operational costs will rise excessively and the business may suffer increased downtime.
An SMS protects employer and employees by helping them identify and control health and safety risks, thereby reducing accidents. The Standard also ensures that all business practices are in compliance with health and safety legal requirements.
Using OHSAS 18001 and AS/NZS 4801, Standard Consulting helps organisations implement safety management systems that are developed specifically for that industry. They provide all documentation, training and expertise to help that organisation achieve certification.
Without a doubt, workplace health and safety in Australia has improved dramatically over the decades, and continues to evolve and improve.