Safety in the workplace is about keeping you and your colleagues, fit, safe and well at work. You are entitled to return home after a big day at work in the same (if not better) shape than when you arrived at work.
Safety at work should be more than a process or one person’s job. Safety at work should be a genuine commitment from every single person in a business to keep themselves and each other safe. Every day. In every situation.
When we talk about being safe, at work this includes not only physical and mental safety but it’s just as importantly overall wellness and wellbeing. This even extends to issues such bullying, harassment and sexual harassment.
It is important to create and maintain a safe workplace for more than just the obvious reason of making sure you or your teammates do not get hurt while at work. We know that workplaces that have great safety cultures and practices also have;
- More productive teams and work environments
- Reduced absenteeism levels/less absenteeism than your competitors
- Happier teams
- A stronger brand reputation – in eyes of employees (current and potential), consumers, government, suppliers and the general public
- Reduced business operational cost and disruption
- A more innovative and business improvement focussed culture
Cleary, it is important for individuals, teams, leaders and businesses to get this right.
Workplace safety is one of those areas which can seem a bit daunting; there is a lot of legislation and a lot of rules! While this may seem a little overwhelming, there is a good reason that this space is as heavily governed as it is – because the outcome of getting it wrong is so significant. No one wants to do something at work that stops them feeling safe and well, or sends them to hospital or even means they don’t go home at all. Safety at work is important because it helps you be around for the people that are most important to you, in the best state you can be.
Even though the stakes are high, feel confident, being part of a safety focussed workplace is something we can all achieve by working together. This means;
- For you and your teammates – being individually and personally accountable for your own safety and the safety of those around you, and owning initiatives that improve safety in the workplace.
- For leaders – bringing the business commitment to safety and wellbeing to life, supporting the team to achieve a safe approach to work every day and importantly personally role modelling great safety practices and behaviours.
- For business – driving a robust safety culture, with not only good safety systems and processes but a genuine care and regard for every person on the team.
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mwah. making work absolutely human
Your role in Safety
Everyone is responsible for their safety and the safety of their teammates at work. We all need to make sure that we (and our teammates) look after ourselves in a way that keeps us whole and able to do the things in our life (in and outside of work) that are important. Your Leader and the business will support you to be safe and well at work. With everyone sharing the responsibility, you will be best placed to achieve a great safe and well place to work.
The concept of safety in modern businesses goes beyond traditional risk assessment, ‘near miss’ reporting and PPE (personal protective equipment). While these types of physical safety requirements are still critical, the focus of safety at work has been expanded to include better supporting and managing mental health and more holistic employee wellness. This can include everything from supporting the mental health needs of individuals, to maintaining an environment where everyone feels safe and able to perform at their best. It’s a big, but important job.
So how do you get actively involved in driving a safe team and workplace culture?
- Get actively involved – Take responsibility for your own personal safety and the safety of each other. Fix the things that are unsafe. Raise concerns clearly and then work with your colleagues to address and resolve issues. Get involved in the OHS Committee or a safety project you’re interested in.
- Educate yourself- Understand safety issues that are relevant to you and how to resolve them. Understand the safety process, systems and practices of the business. Invest in developing your own transferable skills (like problem-solving, Lean Sigma or specialist education) or building competence in an area you are passionate about (e.g. mental health or lifestyle health at work). Your leader will be able to support you here.
- Role model good safety behaviour – all the time, even when you think no one is looking. We are all responsible for safety and if you role model this, it will encourage those around you to do the same. If you’re working with someone who isn’t taking safety seriously, coach them.
Your role in Wellness – yours and everyone else’s
Everyone at work is responsible for their own wellness. Wellness looks different for everyone including what makes us and keeps us well and how we best support wellness in others. At mwah. we see wellness as being a combination of physical, mental, spiritual and emotional factors. You can learn more about Wellness from the mwah. knowledge base “Wellness” area.
As an employee, your first responsibility is to look after and prioritise your own wellness. If you are not well, you will not have the energy, focus or maybe even the physical ability to do great things at work or to support the team. Take this responsibility seriously. Be a wellness role model within your team. This will give your colleagues the permission and encouragement to also prioritise the own wellness.
From a team perspective, your role as a valued colleague is about helping and supporting those around you to also be well. Become aware of your personal impact on other people. Do your behaviours add to or detract from the wellness of others? For example, missing a deadline may put extra pressure on your team members to cover your work.
Look for ways to understand what is important for supporting your team to keep well at work. This will be different for everyone, but by understanding your colleagues better, you will be in a position to work in a way that maintains and builds on everyone’s wellness.
Finally, your leader may want to develop a wellness plan with you. This could be to keep wellness front of mind for the team to or even to address any areas where there are issues or deficiencies. Get involved in developing this plan. Openly contribute. Encourage your colleagues to contribute. Actively work together to keep everyone health and wellness at work a focus.
There’s some great material on Wellness on mwah. Have a look at that area.
Your role in managing conflict
Unresolved workplace conflict or poor workplace conflict resolution skills can create a challenging environment for you and your teammates to work within. It can be stressful and uncomfortable and create feelings of fear, distrust and even aggression. This can make you (and others) feel unsafe and challenge your ability to stay well.
For employees, managing workplace conflict is about displaying good conflict management behaviour. This includes having the tough discussion, at the right time in a way that is positive, constructive and achieves great outcomes for those involved. It may involve reaching out to your leader to receive support to work through particularly challenging situations, or to receive coaching, guidance or advice to build your conflict management skills.
Remember, the worst thing you can do is to let conflict between yourself and others fester and to continue unresolved. Even when tricky or difficult (or you consider it petty), take the time to work through and resolve issues.
We have a whole section on Resolving Conflict in the mwah. knowledge for further reading.
Your role at the Christmas Party (or any other function)
There is a workplace myth that often gets thrown about in relation to Christmas (or other) parties, conferences, long lunches, team building events etc. – “what goes on tour stays on tour”. We know (or we hope) you know that this is not true. Anytime you or are at a business-sponsored event or activity, or anytime you are performing business activities (e.g. travelling for work, attending a client or supplier function), you are essentially deemed by law to be “at work”. This means the expectations, policies and requirements of you and your behaviour are the same whether you are at the desk at 9am on a Tuesday morning, or on a nightclub dance floor, at 11pm on a Friday night at your work Christmas party.
Every person at work is accountable for their own behaviour. Ensure you understand the expectations of your behaviour and act accordingly. Help yourself be successful here by limiting alcohol intake at events and not putting yourself in situations that could be questioned or could reflect negatively on your reputation and brand. Be respectful, kind and fair with your colleagues. Look out for your teammates. If you see them acting in a way that is not ok, talk to them about them. Work with your leader to address the situation.
Remember, just because you are in a different environment doing a different activity doesn’t mean the normal work expectations apply.
Your Leader’s role at the Christmas (or other) Parties
The role of your leader at the Christmas party is to create a safe environment where the team can celebrate and have fun together. You leader will generally set clear expectations about the behaviour that is required and will create structure around the event to limit potential risk. This may include restrictions on the type and amount of alcohol available, transportation to and from the event and a selection of activities that are appropriate for the whole team and keep everyone feeling safe.
While your leader does have a caretaker role at these events, it doesn’t mean you should “go wild” and defer your responsibility onto your leader. You are an adult and you will be expected to do the right thing. We know you can (and want to) do that.
Your role in work life balance
Technology, global teams and ever increasing workloads challenge our abilities to manage our own workloads and work life balance every day. Throw in responsibilities for friends, family, sport or the community and it can be very difficult to manage and balance everything you must do in your life. We know that it is a challenge to consistently achieve a balance between work and life and if not done well, this can negatively impact on your wellness at work.
Work-life balance is a difficult one to manage, as it’s not something you can “achieve” then walk away from. Rather this is something you must consciously work on regularly to ensure you are not only balancing your own work-life, but you are supporting your teammates to do the same. Simple approaches you can use to do this include;
- Personally, role modelling good work-life behaviours. Setting a good example will give your teammates encouragement and permission to take ownership of managing their own work-life balance (and overall health and wellness).
- Work with your leader and the team to agree on good practices for supporting each other to achieve work-life balance. This may include email black outs (e.g. no emails on weekend or after 8pm, unless it is an emergency), supporting flexible working times or sharing leave over preferred periods.
You can find more information about managing your time and balancing work life with the rest of life in the mwah. knowledge base.
Employee Assistance Program (EAP)- what it is, how it works and when to use it
What it is:
An EAP service provides free, confidential counselling and support to you are your family. An EAP service is generally funded by the business and is offered to employees as an extra way to support your health and wellness while at work.
A good EAP provider will generally be staffed with Psychologists or specialist counsellors who will work with you to provide support, advice and guidance for any work or non-work related issues you may be experiencing (including addiction, grief, relationship challenges, work stress etc.).
How it works:
The goal of an EAP service is to provide you with support when you need it over a series of counselling sessions (generally 6 – 8 sessions). This may be face to face support, online or telephone counselling.
Counselling services are completely free and confidential for employees and their families. This means your specific issues or personal details will not be shared with anyone at work. Trends across a business (i.e. work stress) may be shared with your organisation to help them understand and address broad issues, however individual details of your issues or case will never be shared.
If you need longer-term support, an EAP provider may also help you to source and transition to another support service which may be provided by your GP via a mental health plan.
When to use it:
EAP can be used whenever you feel like you (or your family) need a little extra help or support. Sometimes it’s great to talk to someone you don’t know and get a fresh perspective on an issue you are struggling with. Sometimes you are really worried about something and need to build a plan of attack. Sometimes there may be something going on with your friends/family and you are not sure how to support them. Other times you just not feel good or feel like yourself and just need to talk it through. Your EAP can also assist here.
© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human
There is limitless information out there about managing safety, but it can be daunting to dive into this and find what you are looking for. To help you dive deeper into this space, your state based government safety body will have a range of information, tools and resources available to you. You can access more information via;
NSW: Safework- https://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/
VIC: Worksafe – http://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/
QLD: Worksafe – https://www.worksafe.qld.gov.au/
TAS: Worksafe – http://worksafe.tas.gov.au/home
SA: Safework – https://www.safework.sa.gov.au/
WA: Worksafe – https://www.commerce.wa.gov.au/worksafe
ACT: Worksafe – http://www.worksafe.act.gov.au/health_safety
NT: Worksafe – http://www.worksafe.nt.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx
Safe Work Australia:
In addition to the State based government safety bodies, there is also a national body – Safe Work Australia. This body is focussed on driving and coordinating national safety policy and reform, with a view to achieving better and more consistent practice across Australia. More information can be found here – http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/swa/about/ourmembers/pages/members
Want to know even more?
How to be a part of a great safety culture: https://www.comcare.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/60575/Workplace_health_and_safety_culture_PDF,_67.3_KB.pdf
Supporting mental health wellness at work:
Heads Up: https://www.headsup.org.au
Black Dog Institute: https://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/education-training/workplace-mental-health-and-wellbeing
© 2017 All rights reserved
mwah. making work absolutely human