Hazard, Incident and Near Miss Reporting is a requirement under the law and best practice safety management.  However, creating understanding with the staff and embedding a safety culture that values reporting is difficult.  This week’s HR Highlight will explore this issue.

To report…

The reporting of the business to regulators on incidents and injuries is an important area of compliance.  There are extensive breach penalties for failure to report.

However, there is also the duty to actively manage risks within the business.  This is a broad duty that means being active in seeking knowledge and information about risks, and management and control options that are available generally as well as at an industry level.

But it goes further, there is a duty on the business to identify and manage risks within the workplace.  A healthy internal hazard, incident and near miss reporting structure is a key element in ensuring that this duty is appropriately addressed.

As manager, we can not be at every workplace, at every workstation and with every employee all the time.  We can not observe all work tasks and environments at all times.  So we do regular checks and build processes and systems of work to address the known risks.  We document and report incidents and injuries and learn from them.

Most importantly we train our staff in the processes that are designed to keep them safe.

Engage the workers…

However, workers are the key to a successful safety culture.  We need to engage the workers in their own safety, and the safety of their colleagues.

While management can not be there for every task, the workers themselves are.  Workers need to be educated to identify hazards, to identify when a departure from standard operating procedure is appropriate and who to ask for help.

Workers need to clearly understand that when they see something wrong, or they are following a procedure and they almost hurt themselves, that the business needs to, and wants to know.  Not to punish them, not to just note it down and do nothing, but to learn from the near miss and to correctly address the hazard.

Regular toolbox talks and communication to staff on what the business expects in this area, as well as simple training on the identification of hazards, combine to activate workers in the safety system.

More than words…

Creating engagement only works with commitment.  Talking to staff about safety and the important role they play in feeding back the effectiveness of current controls is only the first step.  Action and feedback is required to close the circle and to keep the system moving forward.  When a workers provides information to management on a hazard or near miss, that worker needs to be informed as to the action that was taken, even if that action was that it was considered to be an abnormality and nothing will change.

Without this vital feedback loop workers will disengage and return to dealing with hazards themselves and letting near misses go unreported.  If management does not show workers that they value the reporting that they are receiving then it will dry up.

Reporting structures…

The mechanisms that exist for reporting hazards, injuries, incidents and near misses need not be complicated, but they do need to be important and valued.  In a retail petroleum setting it asking the workers to note reporting in the Site Diary, and then requiring the site manager to review and pass on all reports to safety managers or committees is completely acceptable and makes it simple for the worker to make the report.  The easier it is for workers to talk to management about safety, the more likely they will.

Worth the effort...

In addition to discharging the business duty to manage risks and to verify processes and existing controls are effective, fostering a reporting culture with workers provides management a mechanism for engaging workers in a positive fashion.  The outcomes are increased morale, attendance, productivity and customer service.  When workers are given a voice in safety, and the voice is heard they feel valued.

The most important reason to engage workers in reporting however, is to keep them safe.

Here to help

ACAPMA members are reminded that ACAPMAlliance can assist in this area and that they can call on the advice and support of the ACAPMAlliance Workplace Relations Professionals on 1300 160 270.

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as gerneral advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by calling 1300 160 270 – its free for members.

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