Wednesday, 28 April 2021 is World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers' Memorial Day. On this day, we reflect on how to prevent work-related occupational diseases, deaths, injuries, and illnesses. It is also a day to remember those that have died from a work-related injury or illness.
While the number of work-related fatalities in Australia has been steadily decreasing over the last decade, any workplace death is tragic and unacceptable. As at 15 April, Safe Work Australia reported 29 Australian workers have been killed at work in 2021. This compares to 178 workers killed at work in 2020 and 183 workers in 2019.
By joining the discussion in raising awareness of work health and safety (WHS) issues and taking action to eliminate or minimise health and safety risks at work, we can all help prevent further work-related fatalities and injuries.
This year’s theme set by the International Labour Organization is:
Anticipate, prepare and respond to crises and invest now in resilient OSH systems.
COVID has led governments, employers, workers and the general population around the world to face unprecedented challenges in relation to the virus and the many effects it has had on the world of work. The theme therefore acknowledges the impact that the pandemic has had on our working lives and the importance of building an effective, resilient, and adaptable WHS framework.
A safe and healthy working environment can be created by providing the right tools and ensuring that your team has awareness and ongoing education to complete work safely.
As part of the cause, ILO Director General, Guy Ryder and a panel of global leaders and senior representatives from governments, employers and workers’ organisations will provide perspectives and showcase how investing in OSH, both programmatically and financially can contribute to a stronger infrastructure at the national level, which is prepared to respond to crises such as COVID and similar events. Registration to online seminars and events can be found on the ILO website.
Supporting the 2021 theme
To say the pandemic has changed how we do things would be an understatement. Since Envirolab took initial steps in March 2020 to implement measures and a response plan compliant with health authorities, the pandemic has internally changed how we at Envirolab work, learn and interact as a team. Compliance with mandatory social distancing requirements has also led to a more virtual existence, both personally and professionally.
Within our network of laboratories and office locations in Australia and New Zealand, some changes have included how we interact around the ‘kitchen’ or staff communal areas, sitting at the boardroom table, and generally sharing workspaces and equipment. The pandemic has forced us to quickly adapt to new work environments, which have driven new discoveries about our work lives. Many team members (including myself as the author of the article) have found success in unexpected places, expanded our skillset and generally improved in productivity and wellbeing.
With each new learning, there have been some challenges. Some team members initially stumbled with the technology for working remotely. Some have raised questions about maintaining presence or how to bond with other staff, especially for the less experienced team members looking to gain experience and build a solid foundation now at the early stages of their career. Will these changes deepen existing inequalities across various industries and sectors? Importantly, what’s the effect of the pandemic on our mental health?
As we have continued to adapt to the dynamic circumstances surrounding the pandemic, one thing we can be certain of is that the need to adapt will continue. However, it’s a balancing act in ensuring that these changes do not compromise existing arrangements or cause other health and safety issues and requirements to be overlooked. For example, the pandemic does not remove other statutory health and safety obligations. Employers are still legally obliged to protect the safety of employees and others.
This accordingly supports the significance of having an effective, resilient, and adaptable WHS framework, which can be accomplished by providing the right tools and ensuring that teams have awareness and ongoing education to complete work safely.
The importance of continuous WHS training
Envirolab promotes a positive culture of health and safety and is committed to an ongoing improvement of current workplace systems, practices and processes. Staff is encouraged to provide improvements and new ideas relating to the improvement of quality, health and safety in the workplace. This is further supported by ongoing training of team members on how to do their work safely and ensuring that their knowledge is current and up to date.
Safety training commenced last week for Managers and Supervisors at our Sydney laboratory, Envirolab Services Sydney. Organised by Ai Group, the training provided attendees with the necessary skills and knowledge to participate in WHS matters in the workplace – their role as leaders of safety and their responsibility within the Sydney laboratory in the areas of due diligence, risk management, and compliance with current Safety legislation. For instance, the attendees were provided with training on identifying hazards at work and applying appropriate strategies to reduce the risks of injuries, which may arise from hazards.
Reflecting on the training, Senior Chemist, Hannah Nguyen explained how the training has helped her develop her skills and knowledge so that she can effectively lead her team in a safe manner in the laboratory.
Hannah said, “In working in such a fast-paced laboratory, it’s important to not become complacent of even the most basic risks in the workplace - even the slightest inattention - when our eyes and minds are not focused on the task - can increase risk and possibly lead to injury in the workplace.”
“Envirolab’s focus on continuous learning and upskilling staff provides a supportive environment that gets you into the zone that you need to be so you can succeed as both an individual and a member of a team – I appreciate the growth and opportunities that have so far come my way to progress my career as a Senior Chemist at Envirolab.”
With nearly one in five Australian workers experiencing mental ill-health at any given time, Managers and Supervisors play a key role in fostering the wellbeing of teams through the behaviours you model, and your ability to observe and act when you notice any team members having a difficult time.
“The training has enhanced my team management skills where I can apply my professional and personal skills more effectively to lead and support my team’s wellbeing – this may be by playing a role in successfully integrating team members back into work after a period of sickness or just having open conversation and maintaining trust so that proactive support is available to anyone who might be struggling.”
About World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers' Memorial Day
Work Safe Australia and International Labour Organisation annually observe World Day for Safety and Health at Work and Workers' Memorial Day on April 28 to raise awareness of safety and health in workplaces and remember those who have died from a work-related injury or illness.
Each year the campaign has continued to grow, with more participants getting involved and taking the opportunity to improve organisational awareness and knowledge.
With a united goal of preventing and reducing the number of fatalities and injuries in the workplace at a global level, safety and health practitioners, participating companies, national authorities, trade unions and employers’ organisations can use the initiative to draw attention to workplace risks and ultimately, help reduce the number of work-related deaths and injuries.
Additional Resources and Information
Safe Work Australia is a hub for work health and safety guidance for Australian workplaces.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) website has reports, case studies and registration to online seminars and events.
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