Strengthening safety compliance in preparation for continued change
By Craig Salter, Founder, Safety Champion Software
Tuesday, 23 March, 2021
Certainly, the world around us has changed in some incredible ways over the past year or so. As coronavirus (COVID-19) moved around the world, organisations adapted quickly. Many stumbled their way forward, pivoting and shifting at a moment’s notice, rearranging and restructuring to stay afloat. Workers were hit with concerns over job security and constantly evolving ways of working. While at the same time, governments, regulatory bodies and industry groups worked hard to guide and support industry at every turn. There was great change for all. Everyone had to adapt.
But, as with all periods of rapid change, there must always come a time for pause. The pace at which many organisations adjusted their work practices may not have allowed adequate time for reflection and review. For example: How effectively have business systems and processes handled this change? How well have compliance activities held up? How does the health and wellbeing of your team look right now? Have new hazards, risks and safety concerns been introduced as a result of the change in your work practices?
Yes, now is the time to stop and reflect. It is time to consider the broader implications of the change you’ve seen in your organisation over the past year, ensuring that there is resilience to your business systems and processes, and structure to your compliance activities. This is essential. Not merely for business health, but more importantly for the health of your workers and the broader community around us.
Building business resilience as the pandemic continues
As a vital part of navigating the COVID-19 world we live in today, business resilience is on the minds of every leader. Business resilience is all about an organisation’s ability to flex and adapt to change — whether expected or not — while keeping the business and its core functions ticking along. Yet, a resilient business is more than this. It is also about bringing your team, safely, along with you. Staying afloat is one thing. Ensuring your safety compliance activities continue to operate to a high standard, and in line with the legal frameworks, despite change is quite another.
It is these elements of your business that count when it comes to worker health and safety. And it is businesses that prioritise their workers that see true business resilience. To ensure this, business leaders must invest in solutions that will allow safety and compliance activity to flex and bend alongside change in business systems elsewhere. Moreover, things move quickly with COVID-19, so using appropriate tools and resources that speed up and streamline processes is a must so that you can act quickly whatever the challenge.
Cloud-based solutions for better safety compliance management
Cloud-based safety management systems are key when it comes to keeping up with unexpected change. Such systems allow for safety information to be captured in real time, which in turn allows for vital data to be analysed ready to inform important business decisions and action. During COVID-19, it was cloud-based solutions that supported many businesses to continue to guide the implementation of their safety program at the ‘shop-floor level’ remotely.
While this was important as travel restrictions were introduced — whether that be 5 km bubbles or closed state and international borders — the flow-on effects have been fundamental in changing the mindset of ‘ownership’ of health and safety. It became a reality that safety compliance activities are not the responsibility of only one or a few people — but rather, a shared responsibility.
With health and safety responsibilities clearly allocated and scheduled via cloud-based solutions, ownership of health and safety transitioned to the teams actively doing the work. Importantly, this allowed health and safety leaders to collaborate with operational teams and meaningfully focus on the safety of work, rather than simply administration. As employees continue to work from different locations, on- or off-site, juggling flexible hours around care duties, it becomes even more important that an online solution is adopted. Long gone are the days of paper forms and hard copies of licences.
Furthermore, managing compliance activities via online systems is naturally easier than the alternative. Key processes and workflows can be changed with the click of a button, important safety messages can be communicated instantly, and — if your safety software is easily customisable in-house — the tools you need to maintain compliance can be easily built or amended in accordance with governmental or regulatory advice.
We are certainly well into the digital age. COVID-19 has sped that transition along for us. So, what should you consider as you stop to reflect? Can you provide clear evidence of your compliance despite constantly changing requirements? Can you ensure that you have oversight of all safety practices remotely? Would your current safety systems stack up if it came to an outbreak at work? Would you be able to act quickly should you need to? The COVID-19 risk is not going anywhere. Indeed, if we’ve learned anything it’s that we must prepare for continued uncertainty.
Preparing for growth with a Budget focused on industrial sectors
Following several months of fast change and quick decisions in response to COVID-19 at a governmental level, the 2020–21 Federal Budget (the Budget) was handed down in October 2020. It unveiled a lot of positive news for industrial sectors. The Budget places explicit focus on job creation to steer the economic recovery of the nation, and in some key areas of industry, such as manufacturing and supply chain, and infrastructure projects. Indeed, many opportunities for innovation and accelerated growth will flow from this Budget into targeted industries. Research and development tax incentives, instant asset write-off, hiring credits for new employees and many other initiatives designed for business growth are dispersed throughout the Budget.
Taking up some of these opportunities for growth will no doubt bring about positive change and a much-needed boost. These opportunities could lead to new or upgraded plant and equipment, larger teams, higher levels of output, a healthier bottom line, diversification in customer base, the list goes on. However, with a rush of capital or labour, and necessary changes to work practices comes added pressure to existing systems. Without a doubt safety compliance management must be stable and strong to proactively support the change, and withstand additional strain.
Increasing workforce size by employing younger or lower skilled workers, in line with the government incentives, promotes a certain level of business risk and responsibility that must be addressed sensibly. In order to mitigate such risks, it is important for workplaces to ensure that there are robust hazard reporting, incident reporting and consultation processes in place. Further, the onus is also on employers to deliver all necessary safety inductions and training, and to provide continued and high-quality mentoring and guidance. This is vital to skill-up younger and lower skilled workers, or workers unfamiliar with the plant and equipment they may be operating, to assure their safety at work.
Moreover, a growing or changing workforce in high-risk industries, in which there are high consequence hazard conditions, requires careful and meticulous workplace health and safety management. Guaranteeing clear visibility of hazards, reported incidents, safety consultation, training and licensing, and maintaining solid evidence and records of such activities, is crucial. This enables senior management teams to make evidence-based health and safety decisions that are based on your data and evidence.
It is clear to see that safety compliance activities must be strong and established in preparation for possible changes in staffing, operations or elsewhere. So, what should you consider? How would you handle or manage a period of rapid growth? Do you feel confident that your current team are resourced well enough to cope with this added pressure? Could a cloud-based safety management system support your systems and your team in creating a safer workplace?
Continued uncertainty and change in 2021 — the pathway forward
No doubt your work life has transformed in ways and at speeds that you least expected since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Yet, now is the time to review whether your safety compliance management systems have kept up with that change. Further, you should consider whether these systems can withstand any new pressures as industry continues to evolve and grow in unexpected ways. Certainly, both planning for uncertainty and being open to new opportunities for growth in 2021 will be the way industry must navigate the near COVID-19 future. Organisations that are able to balance these requirements, while also protecting their workers to the highest standards of health and safety, are sure to be the ones to survive and thrive.
To help make this an easier reality, industry should look to technology to support business adaptability with respect to health and safety management. When you consider automation now available with work-orders, plant and equipment or software that is used by other functional units within an organisation (eg, finance or sales), it is clear to see how safety management software can truly assist your teams and your business. Indeed, embracing safety compliance software that can simplify, streamline and flex with whatever change comes next is unquestionably the way forward from here.
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