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We are going to be perfectly honest with you, if you’re in construction and don’t know what Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) is, you’re exactly the sort of person that we need to reach. This blog is aimed at both introducing those working in construction to WHS and informing those who already understand it about its importance.
Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) is defined as every activity which protects the life and health of workers. It integrates issues such as injury prevention, infection prevention, biosecurity, recovery and compensation, occupational data management and record keeping, environmental protection and public awareness.
WHS is important in every industry but it is especially crucial for the construction industry. It’s no wonder that WHS is nothing short of a legal requirement in Australia and the penalties issued for not complying with legislation can be severe. Because even when the weather is perfect and the team is motivated, they can still be exposed to health and safety hazards that could lead to injuries and illnesses.
Think of all the risks that a construction worker has to deal with. Working at heights, confined spaces, hot/cold temperatures, noise, with dangerous mechanical equipment and so on. With the many safety risks in construction one can easily see how important WHS is.
Below are key reasons why you should be paying attention to WHS on your construction site.
Helps ensure workers’ safety
Employers with employees in high-risk industries are responsible for ensuring their workers work under safe conditions. This is to ensure they don’t suffer any ill health or are at risk of losing their lives at work. White Card holder workers are more at risk of contracting an injury when compared to the average worker.
The construction industry has consistently had one of the highest rates of workplace injuries and fatalities since statistics were first kept. Recent statistics coming out of Australia’s construction industry are not looking good either – it is ranked highest for workplace related injuries and fatalities – construction work contributes up to 16% of total work related fatalities and 11% of serious workplace injury claims across the country.
This alarming concern is what WHS seeks to address.
This includes promulgating workplace rules, regulations, legislation and training programs. These are guidelines created to protect workers and prevent injuries and illnesses in construction environments
Hazard recognition is one of the key factors in ensuring workers’ safety. It is required by WHS laws that a risk assessment be carried out by the organisations where all the risks of the workplace are identified which would then lead to effective hazard control strategies to minimize safety risks in the construction site.
Workers are less likely to observe safety procedures and more likely to put themselves in harmful situations if they lack correct knowledge or awareness. WHS enables itraining, supervision and information sharing so everyone has a clearer understanding of safety concerns.
Workplace Health and Safety laws in Australia are a legal requirement to protect workers from dangerous work environments. These laws are designed not only to protect workers from themselves but also improve workplace safety with fines for employers who do not comply with workplace health and safety requirements.
Promotes public safety
WHS enables people to go to work with confidence every day. It helps to ensure that our workplaces are also healthy places which provide a safe and productive environment for all users; employers; employees and their families.
Construction sites in busy areas with the public in harm’s way need to be protected too. Without a good management policy and practice in place, members of the public not directly involved with the project might face serious safety and health risk – for example, objects can fall on unsuspecting bystanders.
Improve productivity on site
WHS is designed to prevent work-related illnesses and injuries from occurring, while providing better welfare to workers and ensuring that workplace conditions are acceptable. An employee who is skilled, educated, physically and mentally healthy while at work is likely to be more productive than an opposite person. In other words, workplace safety and health not only help in saving lives but also in creating a productive workforce.
It can save businesses lots of money
Workplace injuries and fatalities cost the construction industry billions of dollars a year. With statistics like these, it is clear that WHS is important to the construction industry. Establishing a WHS program can help construction businesses save millions, not only in the amount of workers compensation claims but also in lost production downtime as well as wages paid for injured people and their caretakers during recovery. Other cost savings opportunities you can gain with effective WHS include protection of machines and equipment as well as other forms of legal liabilities.
Maintains high standards and quality of projects
Distracted, poorly timed inspections and a failure to enforce safety standards can lead to poor quality of construction. Implementing WHS policies and practices in your project site will not only keep employees safe but by ensuring they don’t cut corners or try to circumvent safety protocols, standards are maintained and the quality of the entire project stands protected.
Reduces Response Times
Considering that many work sites have hazardous conditions and that the unexpected is an inherent part of any construction site, WHS plans would ensure you can react promptly to emergencies and respond appropriately thus increasing survival chances of the victim and reducing cost and impact of accidents and incidents significantly.