Managing workplace risk is becoming more complex so leaders need to plan carefully.
Most business leaders are aware of the need to reduce and mitigate risk but also realise it is increasingly harder to do as workplace risks become more complex, while evolving legislation also presents new risks that need to be managed.
One example is the increasingly mobile workforce. Mobile technology has enabled a lot more freedom when it comes to work. Some employees now work from remotely permanently, while others spend most of their time on the road but come back to the office regularly. Regardless of their location, organisations owe a duty of care to these employees.
However, fulfilling that duty of care becomes much more complex as workers are no longer bound to their desks. A mobile workforce can be subject to any number of potential risks from car accidents to repetitive strain injuries as a result of working environments that aren’t ergonomically correct.
People-related risk can be unpredictable by its very nature; it’s hard to know what a person will do in a situation and not all individuals will react the same way given the same set of circumstances. Businesses need to optimise their risk management strategies and adopt a proactive approach for risk prevention as well as ensuring they have optimal insurance cover and claims management in place.
Businesses should start by conducting a thorough risk assessment so they can see where all the potential risks lie, as well as get an understanding of the consequences of these risks. For example, in a more industrial environment, some businesses require workers to operate dangerous or heavy machinery, while others require people to use sharp implements like knives or other tools.
There are risks associated with these types of tools. However, the risk of an office worker accidentally cutting their finger while making lunch in the kitchen at work is likely to be less significant than the risk of a heavy machinery operator having an accident in a factory.
Similarly, the fallout from each of these incidents is likely to be quite different, requiring a different management approach. And, the risk facing a person who works from home is, again, naturally different from the risk facing a person who works on a construction site.
Conducting accident prevention training is a key element of reducing risk. While avoiding accidents at work can often be a matter of common sense, not everyone possesses equal amounts of common sense and some workplaces are inherently more dangerous than others. It’s therefore essential to clearly communicate with employees regarding the risks as well as the company’s policies for minimising and avoiding those risks.
Even after thorough and detailed accident prevention training, accidents can still happen, particularly in a risk-prone workplace such as construction, mining, trades, law enforcement and many others. If an accident does happen, the business can protect itself by proving that the risk assessment was conducted and the business developed policies and procedures to follow in the event of an incident.
These policies and procedures should include things like who to contact in case of emergency and what immediate first aid responders are available within the organisation, as well as what steps they’re authorised to take if an accident happens.
In the aftermath of an accident, employees could be injured or traumatised: the business must have a plan in place to deal with this effectively, including workers’ compensation and injury management plans, access to counsellors or psychologists, and appropriate insurance.
The nature of risk means that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Risk is unique to each organisation and constantly evolves according to the mix of people, the work being done, the adoption of new tools or technologies, changing legislation, and more.
Consequently, business leaders must ensure the organisation has a substantial risk mitigation plan in place now and must also build in risk mitigation planning on a regular basis, at least annually.