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Safety - Good business practice, ethics or morals?

Posted by Richard Forster on 28 June 2016

"Our people are our greatest asset." You may well have heard this mantra and you may well actually believe in it! Your answer to the following question however, may reveal a little about your organisational culture when it comes to how well are you managing the health, safety and wellbeing of your workers.

Do you consider health and safety to be a cost or an investment (good business management)?

Some of the recent prosecutions undertaken by WorkSafe Victoria show how many people see safety practices.

In April 2016, a farming company was prosecuted and fined $450,000 following an incident in which a 15-year-old boy was killed after the forklift he was driving rolled and crushed him.

WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety, Marnie Williams, said the absence of safe systems of work, safety instructions and supervision contributed to the tragic incident.

In March 2016, two companies were fined a total of $1.5 million in the Supreme Court over the death of a worker who fell 40 metres when a piling rig collapsed at a Melbourne construction site in 2011.

Marnie Williams (WorkSafe Victoria), said of this case that construction was one of the most high-risk industries in Victoria and an ad hoc approach to procedures, training and supervision that puts the safety of workers at risk should never be tolerated.

When looking at how best to successfully manage health and safety obligations, it is may be important to consider asking one simple question what ought I to do?

Ethical and moral imperatives for successfully managing health and safety derive from the concept that a duty of care is owed to others. Greater awareness of the quality of life at work has focussed popular attention on the ability of employers to handle a wide variety of issues that had previously been seen as marginal in relevancy to the business enterprise.

The broadening of workplace issues includes environmental; mental health and wellbeing and product safety issues. These are now commonly discussed at board level and there is a growing belief that it is simply morally unacceptable to put the health and safety of others at risk for profit or otherwise.

A dimension of the moral consideration is culture. Focussed and effective workplace culture is strengthened by active engagement and participation in proactive safety programs and initiatives. The culture aspects are weakened as a result of workplace incidents and ill health.

Consider also that adverse publicity affects the fortunes of an organisation both internally and externally as public confidence may affect local community ties, market position, market share and reputation generally.

Ultimately, there is now evidence that successful companies with a strong culture have at the core of their decision making a ethically and morale framework where doing the right thing translates into business success.
If you feel you need assistance with improving your health and safety performance then please do give HAZCON a call on 1800 429 266 or email via hazcon@hazcon.com.au and start the conversation.

Author: Richard Forster
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