The Forgotten H in WHS

It’s all too easy to be so focused on the safety aspect of WHS that the H – Health – gets forgotten. You may have effective safety systems in place to alert, minimise and monitor safety risks. Can you say the same when it comes to health risks?

Workplace safety and accident prevention are obvious and important areas to manage. Lost time caused by injury is a major problem and the effects of a serious accident on a worker, their family and the workplace are far reaching. Rightly a workplace should do everything it can to lower the risk of a serious accident.

But that’s only half the story in the workplace.

It’s just as important to manage the Health risks in your workplace. This can include many different factors, such as:

  • Are there environmental or other factors that put workers’ health at risk?
  • Do some workers have pre-existing conditions that affect their ability to work?
  • Are there physical factors about the workplace or workers that increase the risk of certain medical conditions?

Managing and minimising illness in the workplace is likely to become a greater challenge in the coming years. Have you got a system in place to alert you to these real health and productivity risks?

Worker health can have a large impact on your business. For example, a recent study estimated that annually Asthma causes lost time equivalent to over 50 000 people being unable to work at all. (Chronic disease and participation in work, 2009,www.aihw.gov.au) That’s just for one medical condition common in the workplace.

Now is the time to act to improve the health of your workplace! This is just as important as it is to eliminate slips, trips and falls and other safety hazards!

What can I do?

Health risks such as Asthma, Anaphylaxis and heart conditions can be difficult to manage effectively. You can’t just turn off an ongoing health problem and you cannot force lifestyle changes on a worker. This makes planning a response and taking steps to minimise their impact in the workplace vital.

The good news is that the approach to managing health issues in the workplace is the same as when managing safety risks:

  • Plan
  • Implement
  • Review

In a future newsletter we will look in more detail at how to follow these steps in managing a health risk in your workplace. For now here are some steps you could take to lower the risk and consequences of the health issues your workplace faces:

Provide additional training

Section 3.5 of the new harmonised code of practice in part states:

“First aiders may also need to undertake additional first aid training to respond to specific situations at their workplace. For example, where workers have severe allergies, first aiders should be trained to respond to anaphylaxis if this topic has not been covered in previous first aid training.”

You may decide that additional formal training such as First Aid Management for Anaphylaxis might be appropriate for your workplace. A training provider like Medilife can help you choose the best level of training for your workplace.

Educate about the risk factors

Workplace wellness programs can do a great job in educating your workers to make choices that make themselves healthier. They don’t need to be a major time consumer, they can just be a matter of preparing a couple of toolbox talks to share at your regular team meetings.

The Heart foundation of Australia has some excellent suggestions and resources on how to get this started in your workplace,which you can find here.

Provide Additional resources

You may also decide that you first aid team needs access to additional resources. This could be items such as:

Of course, if you choose to provide additional resources, you should have a clear policy in place for when and how they are to be used. You also need to make sure your workers are properly trained in their use and maintenance before you put them in place.

What can we do to help you?

Medilife offers a range of courses that can give you the skills to manage these medical conditions, including:

  • First aid management of anaphylaxis
  • Emergency management of asthma in the workplace
  • Course in automatic external defibrillation

We can deliver these and other training courses on-site at your workplace. We can also work with you to help assess your current systems and ensure they meet your needs. Call us 1300 130 385 to see how we can help.

 

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