Work Health and Safety (WHS) is a key management responsibility for every small business with even sole operators needing to comply with their relevant state legislation.

Creating a safe, injury-free workplace not only helps to avoid compensation claims and potential fines, but also creates benefits of a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.

In order to comply with your WHS obligations under model work health and safety laws, the following seven simple steps should be followed:

Step 1. Establish a safe workplace:

Effective WHS management requires a commitment from everyone to make the workplace as safe as it can be and to understand their responsibilities and how to meet them.

Written policies that are simple and developed by management in consultation with workers, will go a long way to achieving this.

Such policies should:

  • Note the duties and responsibilities of all parties
  • State the commitment to improving WHS and consider how best to achieve a safe workplace
  • Be dated and signed by the owner and displayed at the workplace
  • Be accessible to all workers
  • Be reviewed from time to time

Step 2: Consult with workers

All business owners must consult with workers about WHS issues and with effective consultation comes greater awareness of issues and improved safety outcomes.

Consultation can occur through WHS committees, meetings or toolbox talks and general WHS information can be delivered through briefings, noticeboards, emails or newsletters.

Step 3: Manage hazards and control risks

The best way to prevent injuries or illness in your workplace is to find the hazards that could injure people and fix them before an incident happens.

Reporting hazards, conducting regular workplace inspections, and even using an external auditor to inspect the workplace are some methods that can be used to identify hazards. Assess those hazards and determine the best time frame and urgency for controlling the risk.

Then starting with the most dangerous risk first, try to eliminate the hazard; and if this cannot be done, substitute it with something that’s safer. A combination of isolating the hazard, using administering control measures or engineering controls and making personal protective equipment compulsory may be necessary to reduce the level of risk.

Finding safety solutions can be as simple as asking your workers for their ideas, looking at information available from designers or manufacturers, getting help from an association or groups related to your industry, or considering relevant Codes of Practice or Australian Standards.

Step 4: Inform, train, and supervise

Inform and train your workers about particular job hazards and the workplace more generally as well as the safe work procedures you use to manage hazards in your business. Make sure that new workers are correctly inducted and supervised.

Step 5: Maintain a safe workplace

Maintaining a safe workplace can be achieved by:

– Carrying out regular safety checks

– Maintaining workplace equipment and tools

– Providing workers with easy to understand information and training on how to do their job safely

– Having an incident/injury reporting process

– Planning for emergencies e.g. fire, medical or chemical leaks

Step 6: Keep records

Keeping records of your WHS activities will help you to monitor the health and safety performance of your business as well as meet your legal requirements.

You will need to keep the following records:

– Incidents and injuries, including near misses

– Hazardous chemicals and asbestos register (if they are present at your workplace)

– Plant registration documents

– Tests, maintenance, inspection and other records for specific types of plant

Step 7: Monitor, review, and improve

Managing WHS is an ongoing process. Be aware that your safety processes, operations and workers may change over time and so can the risks. After you have established your WHS management system you should regularly review and make any necessary adjustments to keep it up to date.

If you’re still unsure of the best approach feel free to contact Turf Australia’s Safety Partner TurfPlus for further information at admin@turfplus.com.au and consider applying for one of the free farm safety audits available from TurfPlus for Turf Australia members.