The number of people killed on the job in Australia has been decreasing annually for the previous ten years, but the development of better workplace health and safety has its challenges.

October is National Work Safety month, which is always a bit of a strange one, as work security is a year long priority for many HR professionals. Regardless, it’s a fantastic excuse to emphasise this most important of issues, such as fall prevention training.

Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon Michael Cash, who formally established National Safe Work Month 2017, reminded Australians that secure workplaces happen when everyone shares their knowledge and expertise about what makes work safe.

Anyone who adheres to OHS Alert, as I am sure many in the HR field do, will remember that there’s still a ways to go. The Health and Safety e-newsletter provides a litany of failures and workplace injuries. It mentions employees overcome by fumes in confined-spaces, a crane operator fined for electricity line shocks, to more trivial issues, such as the failure to investigate workplace bullying. It makes for uncomfortable reading.

However, there are also some positive examples. Yarra Valley Water has announced a significant workplace safety overhaul has contributed to zero lost-time accidents in the past financial year.

One of the innovations was to make”security action squads”, which challenged teams throughout the business to examine different methods of talking about security. Groups presented talks, movie clips and actions to their colleagues in the canteen during lunch, to reveal what security meant in various areas of the organisation. By way of instance, employees talked about falls prevention, and the various substances they come in contact with, while call-centre employees spoke about mental health problems and repetitive strain injuries.

So how have organisations responded to WH&S  in the past ten years or more?

KINNECT is a national Occupational Health company specialising in Injury Prevention, Injury Management, Health and healthcare services to the mining, energy sources, logistics and transport, government and HR sectors. It’s CEO, Kevin Conlon, states that in his 20 years’ of experience, he’s seen a definite shift in people becoming more risk-averse and needing to handle risk even more closely at an individualised degree.

The future of workplace health and safety.

Looking towards the future for health and safety at work, Conlon says these are exciting times for his business.

Conlon says safety and health are very data-driven and although KINNECT has utilised analytics, today it is not just about taking a snapshot of a moment in time, like if a business does a pre-employment medical evaluation, but overlaying that information with data recorded more proactively.

And while workplace surveillance, AI and wearable technology will undoubtedly be part of our future, they come with their challenges. Since HRM has written about this before, the technology that monitors employee movements with cameras and ever-watchful AI must walk the line between optimising security, rather than impinging on privacy — that is something even top developers such as Microsoft are concerned about.

In terms of wearable technology, HRM reported just lately on how security would probably be the best legal debate for compulsory microchipping, as the legislation now stands.

Irrespective of how we negotiate the future of technology, the present strategy as outlined by Conlon underlines Senator Cash’s point. Health and safety is no longer something which can be”done” by an employer for an employee.

WH&S relies on the gathering and sharing of knowledge. It is a little like the change that has occurred in training, where today folks are expected to take responsibility for their personal development. There’s now the sense that safety and health is not one size fits all, especially in preventative injuries. Instead, it must be tailored towards personal requirements with people taking their share of responsibility for their wellbeing and health.

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