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The top 5 biggest workplace safety issues in 2020

Workplace safety is everyone’s responsibility and our obligations change every year as the way we work changes. 

There are new trends, new jobs and even brand new industries popping up as well as global issues that we need to contend with to ensure that we are 100 per cent compliant in all OHS and HSE endeavours to ensure safe workplaces for all employees.

Here are the top five biggest workplace safety issues that are impacting all industries in 2020 and how you can meet those challenges and keep your workplace safe and compliant.

 

Australia's aging workforce infographic

An aging workforce and how this impacts workplace safety

This is a factor that many workforces may not have considered, but the bottom line is that the average age of workers across most industries is rising and that means health and safety policies need to be amended to accommodate these older workers.

There are many benefits that older workers bring to the workplace and many businesses are now realising this and favouring these more experienced employees because of the wealth of knowledge they bring to the table. They tend to be more skilled at verbal and written communication, are better at efficient problem solving and they are also better at regulating their emotions and stress levels when under pressure.

But age does bring about physical decline, which begins in men and women from the day they turn 30. This decline begins to exponentially increase after 70 as well, so physical activity programs in the workplace need to adapt to suit this aging workforce. It is not about them doing less work, it is about altering their work schedules to tap into their strengths and minimise the impacts of physical decline – which can lead to better workplace safety and fewer injuries and accidents.

Here are some of the considerations you should factor in for your ageing workforce:

  • Occupational and chronic diseases and injuries begin to present themselves in older workers that have been in certain work environments their entire lives. It is important to minimise their exposure to hazards like dust, excess noise and hazardous manual tasks.
  • Vision and hearing decline is more likely in workers after 45-64
  • Workers aged 45 and over are much more likely to be involved in accidents like slips, trips and falls which can lead to costly compensation claims and time off work
  • Older workers are going to experience more difficulty sleeping which makes it difficult for them to work long shifts or perform shift work effectively
  • Road fatalities for drivers between 65 and 74 have increased nationally by 2.3 per cent every year since 2007 which means greater safety and monitoring is required for those that need to drive as part of their job
COVID-19 reopening for business impacts worker safety

COVID-19 and workplace safety

The global pandemic has changed the way that many businesses operate while unfortunately many have been forced to close their doors permanently because of lockdowns and restrictions to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

That means that businesses that remain open have a duty of care to protect their workers, their customers and any contractors or other people who interact with their operations from being exposed to the virus. It means we have to have check-in systems and tracing protocols so that we can screen and prevent any potential threats from coming through our doors.

This has been a challenge for many workforces and it is important to be compliant and safe, but also efficient so that the process is not slowing productivity to a standstill. Manual processes are time-consuming and automated processes need to be adopted to keep the wheels turning while staying safe and compliant.

It also means that we have increased our hygiene practices at work, ensuring workers are washing their hands correctly and frequently as well as increasing our cleaning operations. Physical distancing and personal protective equipment like masks have also become part of the new normal.

The other side of COVID-19 is the high volumes of people that are working from home during the pandemic. While this is practical, it presents a whole new raft of OHS and HSE issues for management. These home offers need to be scrutinised under the same risk management protocols as any workspace at the physical office and any injuries like slips or falls at home would still entitle that worker to compensation and time off work to recover.

And the mental health of these remote workers also becomes a large consideration, as isolation can lead to depression and other mental health issues which can lead to long-term psychological health issues. 

If you are looking for an automated tool to assist with these issues, our sister company Site Pandemic Response (SPR) automates the check-in process and has built-in mental health checks and risk assessment for home offices as well. 

Workplace safety is changing

The changing ways we are working

If you take a look at almost any work environment it looks completely different to what it did 50 years ago – even from as little as 20 years ago. We are adopting new ways to perform job functions, we are abandoning the traditional Monday to Friday, 9-5 schedule more and more each year and we have automation and technology that is assisting us. 

Here are some of the modern challenges facing modern workplaces that require revised and reviewed workplace safety, OHS and HSE policies and procedures:

  • Hi-tech environments: The equipment we are using to do our jobs is changing by the second. From advanced computers, apps and software through to innovations and automation in machinery that are assisting industries like manufacturing, mining and agriculture achieve enormous efficiencies and gains in productivity. But Safe Work Australia lists being trapped between stationary and moving objects (five per cent of all workplace fatalities) and being trapped by moving machinery (another five per cent) as leading causes of workplace injuries and deaths. With more technology and machinery being implemented, greater safety operations, risk management and training procedures are going to be required.
  • Remote workers: As previously mentioned, COVID-19 has seen many workers shifting their duties to home office environments which means companies have to carry out a risk assessment and safety procedures on these home offices to ensure compliance. But the bottom line is that the trends of telecommuting, flexible scheduling and the gig economy were already spiking before COVID-19 so managing and keeping these workers safe is not only a high priority during the pandemic but ongoing.
  • HSE training: The days of wheeling out the old television and VCR with the outdated government safety training videos are well behind us in 2020. There are advanced methods of training staff in the modern-day including interactive apps and ways to track and monitor compliance which needs to be implemented.
  • New industries and jobs: There has been a fear that the robots will take all of our jobs for decades now and it some ways that have come to pass, with the decline and ultimate shutdown of the Australian car manufacturing industry a prime example. But just because the doors close on some industries does not mean fewer jobs across the board. There are new industries popping up all the time including data analysts, social media managers, drone pilots, app developers … the list goes on. And each of these new positions needs to have OHS and HSE policy designed to cater to their unique activities, operations and behaviours. 

Generational changes impact workplace safety

In the past, working on the car with Dad and learning how to operate and repair machinery from a young age was the norm. But this is all changing with Generation Z that is entering the workforce with very little knowledge on safely operating and working on machines.

That means that traditional workplace safety concepts that were previously common sense have become harder to grasp and greater training and awareness is required from employers to ensure their new, young staff members are adhering to OHS and HSE compliance.

There is good news, though. While the younger generation might not have the same mechanical aptitude as the previous generation, their knowledge of modern technologies, innovations and automation is much higher so that are able to take on new concepts and adopt them quickly. 

The message is don’t just assume that common sense practices from yesterday are still common sense today. Ensure all of the training is provided and dot all of the I’s and cross all of the t’s when it comes to ensuring your new workers thoroughly understand their role in being safe and compliant in the workplace.

More people will be driving as part of their job in the future which means changes to worker safety

There are going to be more people driving as part of their work duties


We have saved the biggest challenge for workplaces for last, keeping their mobile and travelling workers safe while they are behind the wheel.

According to Safe Work Australia data, Machinery Operators and Drivers top the fatality count of all professions with 6.2 deaths in every 100,000 workers. Vehicle collision is also the leading cause of all workplace injuries and deaths and makes up 31 per cent of all work fatalities. These are extremely important numbers when you consider that there are going to be more drivers on the road for work in the coming years.

Already we have seen health care services ressurect home visits. After decades of being housed in clinics that required the patients to come to them, we now have doctors, nurses and allied health professionals all delivering their services directly to people’s homes again. Aged care services as well.

We are also experiencing the rise of services like Amazon, Uber and a raft of other delivery services that mean we can get basically anything we want, from a cup of coffee through to an entire home’s worth of furniture, delivered directly to our door. There were just over 190,000 people employed in road freight transport in 2019, that is tipped to rise to over 215,000 by 2024.

It is expected that there will be 6.8 per cent more truck drivers on the road by 2024, 7.6 more bus and coach drivers, 15.9 per cent more delivery drivers and a massive 18.8 per cent more extra cars on the road being driven by people performing their work duties.

This requires a whole new duty of care from employers who will need to rapidly roll out fresh risk assessment and OHS and HSE compliance measures to protect their workers from the perfect storm of more road users colliding with road accidents being the leading cause of workplace deaths.

Journey Management System (JMS) presents the tool you need to ensure your travelling workforce is kept safe, no matter which industry you are working in. JMS has successfully been deployed across major mining, energy and construction operations across Australia including for Anglo American, Shell QGC, Mitchell Services, AGL and CPB Contractors.

The basic premise of JMS is simple, it is a mobile app that allows you to monitor the journeys of your travelling workers. It operates by using geofences, digital boundaries set around checkpoints, towns, mandatory rest stops and the final destination. If the driver does not reach these geofenced locations in an allotted time period, alerts are sent to management to deploy help.

The app uses these the mobile signal and the GPS functionality of the mobile device and it can also provide voice alerts to the driver if required. It is totally hands-free and does not require any manual check-in processes like some other providers. Drivers should never be operating their phone while they are driving their vehicle.

If the driver is in an area of low or no mobile reception, the GPS functionality will send the last known location to management to ensure emergency services can quickly locate them.

JMS saves lives and it is your safety guardian for travelling workers that are otherwise invisible to your supervision. Give it a try today for free and discover one of the most important OHS and HSE compliance tools that will be required in 2020 and beyond.

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