Talking Work, Health, Safety and Small Business

talking safety and health smallbiz with Melinda J. Irvine

Most small business owners I talk to would rather be engaged in the money making side of their business than embroiled in compliance talk or scrolling through pages of government websites and safety legislation. But small business is responsible for the safety of approximately 4.8 million Australian workers, so it’s a conversation that needs to be made.

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Making WHS simple

And where does a new manager or business owner actually start?

Sure there’s loads of information out there about WHS, but a lot of the content is high-end or written in a way that small business owners find hard to relate back to their own work experiences — especially if they are sole traders and only have a couple of staff.

Australian Safety Standards can be very difficult to navigate, and even government issued Codes of Practice and guidance material are often disjointed or don’t suit the hazards present at your business.

So because I’m a WHS and compliance writer (as well as a small business owner myself) I thought I’d start a new section of my website dedicated to talking work health and safety — taking the time to rewrite some of the more complex issues in simpler terms — using real world examples.

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My own WHS background

I remember back in 1998 when I had become a manager for the first time — I literally had no clue about work health and safety. There I was a 28yo bar steward with a bit of admin experience who had talked her way into a General Manager’s role at a small golf club in western NSW — now in charge of 10 staff and 15 contractors.

Being a licensed golf club, many of my workers were using heavy machinery and hazardous chemicals on a daily basis — plus we were all lifting and carrying stock and other heavy items in and out of the club.  And I was responsible for everyone’s safety!

Feeling overwhelmed by terms like risk assessment and hazard control measure I marched myself off to TAFE (as you did in those days) to get some training in WHS and learn how to carry out a risk assessment. Then as I moved up the management ladder and secured roles in larger venues I did more training, eventually becoming a registered WHSO (Work Health and Safety Officer) — leading safety committees, developing safe work procedures and operating policy.

But I still remember those early days when I just didn’t know what I had to do, or where to find stuff. And I suppose that’s who I’m writing for now, that inexperienced girl-manager who was bursting with enthusiasm and wanting to get things right.

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What to expect in the WHS series

This is an introductory post to my WHS series but I have a publishing schedule in place to tackle the following topics — I’ll post the links as each article is published:

  1. How Australian safety laws apply to your small business
  2. 5 Essential WHS Duties of Australian Small Business Owners
  3. Helping your workers understand their WHS responsibilities
  4. Consulting with your staff for a safer workplace
  5. Making a visible commitment to WHS
  6. Risk management and safety explained in very simple terms
  7. How small business owners manage hazardous chemicals
  8. Identifying hazards in your small business
  9. How to assess the hazards at your small business — then create an affordable action plan
  10. SMALLBIZ compliance: do my workers need Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  11. Developing a safety induction program
  12. Training your workers for safety and compliance
  13. Work health and safety in your home office
  14. I’m a small business, does my risk management plan need to include terrorism, natural disasters, and extreme acts of malice?
  15. Making safety work for your small business

Once these 15 topics are published I’ll revisit the content schedule, and if there are any topics you’d like included please shoot me an email.

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Writing for work health and safety

I have been writing work health and safety documents for more than 20 years now and even though the laws have changed quite a lot over this time, the basic principles remain:

  1. Identify the hazards.
  2. Assess the risk.
  3. Try to eliminate the hazard, and if that isn’t possible find ways to minimise the risk (referring to Australian Safety Standards, Codes of Practice and other Guidance Materials).
  4. Monitor the effectiveness of your risk controls — as well as the health of your workers.
  5. Review your risk assessments.

WHS documents help senior management, workers and contractors understand their WHS roles and responsibilities — and provide clear instructions for avoiding dangerous incidents, chemical exposure, and workplace injuries. They also document compliance and support ongoing risk management, safety planning and review.

Developing safe work procedures and operating policy can be time consuming, especially when you lack writing skills. So if you need help putting WHS documentation in place, please reach out and get in contact with me today.

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Reach out for WHS assistance

Fill out the contact form below and I’m usually in touch within a few hours.