Small business safety – Essentials program

WorkSafe Victoria have been running the Essentials or earlier similar programs to support provision of OHS advice by safety consultants to Small and Medium (SME) businesses for many years.  An SME seeking assistance may register their interest on www.worksafe.vic.gov.au and receive the assistance of a safety consultant fully subsidised by WorkSafe.  In the two years Bill Fitzgerald & Associates have been on the panel we have provided confidential advice to dozens of small businesses and a few medium businesses.  What have been the common factors?

Small and medium businesses want to do the right thing but no-one will tell them what they need to do – in practical terms – they want solutions but not the process or the theory behind the solutions (although they do need these).   Only some want, or need, safety systems.  We have seen some high cost and high complexity safety systems sold to small businesses that do not need them or who were not shown how to use them.  Generally, there is very little knowledge of chemical safety, plant and equipment safety and emergency procedures.  Most get licenses for forklift drivers but do not engage in workplace traffic management.  None use risk assessments to determine plant, chemical or manual handling safety.  Most have some unguarded machinery, none have HR policies to deal with fatigue, chronic illness or disability.  Most do have copied OHS and bullying policies.  Many have some copied documents to show companies that demand them – things like SWMS, JSA’s or “safety management systems,” but do not actually use these documents well or at all.  Most do not record inspections – if they do them.

What we are also now seeing are businesses with a notice issued by a WorkSafe inspector and no idea what to do. So they contact WorkSafe and are referred to us.  We are happy to help them get past the notice and to then help with their entire safety program, remembering that most want solutions not systems.  Recently I was disappointed to see a franchisee of a national brand who had received no safety guidance – they now have it – free – courtesy of WorkSafe.  A pity it was not provided by the franchise.

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