SafetyAtWorkBlog has been critical of the use and sale of generic Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) for work tasks that can be managed through simpler and freely available job safety analyses (JSAs) and face-to-face communication. On 27 January 2017, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia (CCI) launched generic inductions.
The CCI asks and answers, in its media release:
“So why is it that so many workplaces don’t provide an induction? Our Members are telling us that they don’t really know what information they should be giving to a new starter.”
An internet search of the WorkSafeWA website would have led one to its “Checklist for new and young workers – Safety induction” which provides a good list of the categories of workplace safety information the safety regulator believes would be appropriate. (Similar checklists are available from WorkSafe Victoria and WorkSafe Tasmania) So why charge for something that is freely available online?
CCI recommends a two-part induction process:
- “General component introducing new employees to their general safety obligations, providing them with the essential theoretical and practical knowledge
- Workplace and job specific component.”
The first part is a two-hour class-based session. The second part is a
“Workplace specific OSH induction checklist to be completed by new employee with their supervisor at your workplace”.
As with SWMS and JSAs, the major benefit comes from the tailoring of information to the specific workplace and work tasks required of the job on the day of the job and in consultation with the work team.
WorkSafeWA’s checklist also operates to a two stage induction involving an introduction to key people in the workplace and an explanation of the basic OHS information that is essential for all employees to work in a safe and healthy manner. Regardless of the CCI induction structure, employers are going to need to introduce new starters to the relevant safety and managerial personnel and supervisors in the workplace.
WorkSafeWA includes the provision of personal protective equipment, tools and lockers, if available. This process, plus the staff introduction, offers the opportunity for employers to become familiar with the new starter and vice versa; to build a rapport.
Some of the information that WorkSafeWA recommends includes discussing
- OSH policy
- Duty of care: employer and employees
- Consultation: OSH committee and safety and health representative (if any)
- Safe work procedures and instructions for each task
- Any hazards and the control measures
- Slips, trips and falls prevention
- Vehicle safety
- Procedures for working outside such as skin protection
- Use, maintenance and storage of personal protective clothing and equipment including, where required, eye, hand, foot and hearing protection
- Maintenance requirements and who has responsibility
- Issue resolution procedures
- Injury/incident reporting procedure
The level of information in each one of these categories will vary with every workplace. Further variance will come from the organisational structure of each workplace, supervisory contacts and geographical location. Even more will come from the type of work to be undertaken. It is difficult to see how a generic two-hour training course can provide a better level of consultation and induction than what can, and is legally required to, be provided at each workplace.
SafetyAtWorkBlog supports satisfying niche markets or information shortfalls but struggles to understand why one would charge for information that is already available for free elsewhere.
CCI has said that the courses are in response to the question “So why is it that so many workplaces don’t provide an induction?” CCI members should perhaps ask whether a two-hour training course is really the answer to the induction question.
SafetyAtWorkBlog has several answers to the CCI question.
Business owners are not aware of their legislative obligation.
The legislative obligation has existed in Western Australia as long as the OHS laws have been in place, at least from the 1980s. There are few, if any, valid excuses for not being aware of OHS obligations. Any industry association would also be regularly reminding members of these obligations and, perhaps, providing templates and other simple tools to assist. They could perhaps remind members of the free information available on the websites of the local safety regulator.
Business owners see inductions as a nuisance and something to be addressed in the shortest possible time.
Be wary of any business owner that cuts corners on, or does not provide an adequate, OHS induction. Induction is a fundamental underpinning of worker safety. Those business owners who ignore or downplay inductions are also displaying a disregard for OHS laws which does not provide confidence in their safety management practices.
Many employers try to streamline inductions through the use of videos and other mechanisms. This is understandable when new starters are infrequent but it is not necessarily effective. An induction is a good opportunity to familiarise oneself with the new worker or site visitor and to display one’s commitment to their health, safety and welfare by ensuring they are clear on their obligations and to answer any questions the inductee may have.
Repeating the same induction frequently can be boring for the presenter and causes many to speed through it. But this is doing safety a disservice and may increase the likelihood of a new worker doing the wrong thing. If a company believes that safety is everybody’s responsibility then have everyone take turns in providing the OHS induction. Not only does this reinforce that safety is everybody’s responsibility, it refreshes the presenters’ OHS knowledge that they may not have thought about since their induction some months or years earlier.
Business owners who see inductions as a nuisance are likely to embrace the generic induction courses that CCI is providing. It may achieve technical compliance but it can also be argued that this is contrary to OHS legislative obligations about information sharing and consultation. Enforcement of OHS laws is moving (slowly) from tick-and-flick compliance to assessing the quality and effectiveness of the safety process. Companies are missing out on the best opportunity to provide effective OHS communication with new starters and to embed the safety values and practices of the company into those workers who statistics identify as in a high risk category.
Outsourcing OHS induction will do little to reduce the high risk of new starters doing the wrong thing because they have not fully understood what they have to do to work safely. WorkCover Queensland states that
“International research has shown that, over a 10-year period, the risk of work injury for workers employed for a short time has consistently remained higher compared to those employed at a job for more than one year.
The study shows that risk is particularly elevated among those in the first month on the job, with over three times the risk of a lost-time injury as workers with over a year’s job experience.”
Workcover Queensland identifies Inductions and Support as crucial ways of reducing these risks.
WorkSafeWA’s guide for safety of casual workers has this to say on inductions:
“Written procedures and signs should not be the main source of safety information, as there may not be time for people to take them in or there may be difficulties in understanding them.
Employers must ensure that discussions and demonstrations have been held on the safe work procedures. As part of this, a safety induction for each worker is very important as all workers who are new to a job are at risk of injury.
Before they start work, all workers need information, instruction and training with follow-up supervision. They also need to understand the emergency procedures and how to seek help if there is an accident.
The employment arrangements need to allow adequate time for an induction to occur before work commences and adequate time for workers to read and understand any written information or instructions.”
That guide also has an induction checklist (pictured right).
Inductions are a wonderful opportunity to assess the suitability of the new worker and their ability to learn how to work safely. Building a relationship between worker and employer is strengthened by caring for the worker, giving the worker the right start, often, in their first job, ensuring that workers understand what is expected, making sure that workers’ literacy and language skills are adequate to the task, and making the worker feel welcome and proud of their new job. This is best achieved at the workplace of the new worker by the employer.