Finding money for WHS

By Jo Kitney, State Manager - Safety, Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland
Thursday, 07 July, 2011

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland's state manager - workplace health and safety, Jo Kitney, says WHS practitioners who "do their homework and speak the language of business" are more likely to attract funding and resources for occupational health and safety initiatives. Kitney recently presented a seminar at the Queensland Safety Show that explained how to find money for WHS from within a business as well as state and federal funding available for WHS.

Although many health and safety initiatives require little or no capital expenditure, managing workplace health and safety does require money to be spent by an organisation - either to prevent health and safety incidents and ill health or to manage an incident (and the impact of an incident) when it arises, or both. Workplace health and safety is an important part of good business management, yet it is often seen as a value-add to the cost of running a business. Finding money for health and safety is essential, yet it's naive to think employers are going to spend money on anything that is not justified.

Every business will manage its health and safety differently. Some react when accidents happen, some invest in health and safety management and some integrate health and safety management into wider business management and systems. To find money for health and safety at work means thinking beyond legal obligations and looking for ways that health and safety can add value to, and be valued by, an organisation. It means being creative and looking both above and below the line - business decisions should be objective but are often influenced by underpinning management values.

Finding money from within the business - above the line

Resourcing to meet obligations

A first step in finding money from within a business involves recognising and directly resourcing health and safety obligations. In January 2012 this will be an obligation of officers, with Section 27 of the new Safe Work Bill 2011 requiring that officers "take reasonable steps to ensure the business or undertaking is available for use, and uses, appropriate resources and processes to eliminate or minimise risks to health and safety from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking".

Costs and savings

Going beyond compliance, finding money involves looking at what money is being spent directly or indirectly for health and safety and where savings can be made. This may be in the way health and safety is being resourced and managed, in the costs for managing incidents and in the costs for managing the impacts of incidents. Beyond mere compliance are a host of good financial reasons to invest in WHS, from lower absenteeism through to the company's ability to attract new staff. In fact, the true cost of a workplace injury is up to 36 times the cost of WorkCover premiums. There are savings that can be made (and money that can be found) by preventing accidents, by good management of accidents and claims, and by reducing insurance premiums through improved workers compensation claims, rates and management.

Return on investment

A further way to find money for health and safety is to establish where a return on investment would not only meet obligations, but also contribute to the wider business goals. Business cases are a common way to present information to management and contain data on the costs as well as the benefits of taking action. Benefits should be wider than simply meeting obligations and managing risk, and may be economic (such as preventing incidents) as well as beyond economic (such as reputation, reduced LTIFR and employee morale). The good news is that the basic risk assessment tool familiar to WHS practitioners provides a very sound foundation for a compelling business case for WHS investment. But only the foundation, a business-oriented approach is needed to build a capital expenditure proposal that will resonate with managers and employers.

Use risk management principles that take frequency and severity into account to put a value on the risk of not undertaking the project. Look at it from every angle: work health and safety projects also often generate measurable savings, such as in terms of productivity. Putting a good business case together also involves working with anyone who may be impacted by the health and safety intervention and who may gain from its implementation. They are best placed to advise on costs as well as benefits and add credibility to the information provided to management.

Goals and targets, plans and budgets

Goals and targets

Setting goals for health and safety is a critical part to ensuring that all involved understand what the future should look like and the commitment being made by the organisation to reach this.

WHS plans

Every organisation should have a workplace health and safety plan, or plans, depending on the size and complexity of the business. To gain management commitment, and for management to make their commitment, health and safety should be included within the business plan and answer three questions:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to get to?
  • How are we going to get there?

No business can address every risk instantly, but having a health and safety plan (the risk matrix can assist with this) can systematically address high-priority risk areas.

Budgets for WHS

Having determined the plan, the organisation must ensure that resource is made available. This is best achieved by including health and safety within budgets, for overall health and safety management as well as the health and safety aspects of operational and day-to-day business needs.

Finding money from within the business - below the line

Values, beliefs and attitudes

Meeting health and safety obligations is a moral as well as legal obligation; however, there can be differences in values and beliefs for health and safety between organisations and within organisations. Decisions made by employers and business managers can be influenced by what they think and how they feel - and this can make the difference between resourcing health and safety, or not. To find money for health and safety means looking beneath the line and establishing the organisation’s value base for health and safety. It is difficult to do so, but there are times when below the line aspects of health and safety management have to be challenged, to ensure that those making decisions are aware of the implications - personally as well as for the wider organisation.

Elevating safety to a value, not just a priority, can ensure that it becomes an intrinsic part of the company's operations - and budgeting.

External sources of funding

There are a number of external sources of support and funding for health and safety, either directly or indirectly, including some programs run by CCIQ.

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