Issues concerning workplace health and safety are generally those which HR professionals elect to have front-line managers and risk management experts deal with. Many HR professionals think that it’s simply a matter of being compliant. They believe that when you’re complying with procedures, legislation and internal policies, this translates into a safe workplace with minimal legal or financial risk.
However, this isn’t always the case. If your business is to successfully implement an effective WHS program, HR does in fact play a vital role in the foundation, on-going development and future stability of such a program.
Let’s take a look at the 5 important elements of HR for you to consider when implementing a WHS program into your organisation. Then, you will see how HR management and workplace health and safety go hand-in-hand.
1. New/Young Employees and Injury
WHS research from the Institute for Work & Health in Canada indicates that newly hired workers (and younger workers) have a significantly higher risk of being injured. This is especially noticeable during the first month of employment.
Workplace injuries of this nature can be prevented with appropriate WHS training prior to the commencement of work. However, there are other factors that can influence the rate of injury.
Some of these include:
- Environmental conditions of employment
- The age of the employee; and,
- The type of employment (whether it’s shift work, casual work, etc.)
2. Workplace Culture
These days, the impact of a positive organisational culture can be seen almost everywhere. In fact, the success of some businesses depends solely on the internal culture they have developed. From an HR perspective, you will know that selecting an employee who is a cultural fit is of utmost importance.
When there has been a ‘safety first’ culture implemented, this strengthens the overall WHS system and makes employees more aware. So when you combine this with employees who are a cultural fit; it’s a win-win situation.
This brings us to the third factor that influences safety performance.
3. Recruiting the Right Type of Employees
The type of employee you select can have a drastic impact on whether or not a workplace injury or accident is likely to occur. For this reason, it’s important for potential employees to demonstrate an increased awareness of WHS practises by answering appropriate WHS questions during the interview phase. Psychometric testing is another effective way of doing this.
Of course, injuries in the workplace are always going to occur, but this is perhaps the best way to prevent such a risk from the earliest stage possible.
4. Health Programs
A healthy workplace will bring about healthy results – especially when it comes to your bottom line. When you consider implementing a well-being program, this has the potential to reduce illness and injuries at work. When employees are more aware of their physical and mental health, they’re much more likely to notice early signs and commit to best health and safety practices.
For example, physical awareness with regards to exercise programs can help improve strength, posture, and stress – which ultimately decreases the chance of any mental issues should they arise.
In Australia, the Department of Health have launched a portal assisting managers and HR professionals in finding out how to plan and deliver a workplace health program.
5. Job Description
The varying aspects of an employee’s job description play a pivotal role in whether or not they succumb to injury or illness in the workplace.
Injury and illness can be prevented by considering simple factors such as ergonomics, the repetitiveness of the work and how much exertion is required to perform certain tasks.
But in the end, it all comes down to WHS planning to ensure an appropriate environment has been created with consideration for best work health and safety practices.
And remember, HR does play a significant role in WHS outcomes, especially with regards to the prevention of accident and injury.