While viewing the rough cuts of the first of our documentary videos on workplace safety, I have been staggered by some of the statistics that the production team have gathered concerning workplace fatalities. And frankly they are still way too high.
We do tend to think of today’s Australia as something of a “nanny knows best” society: one where you aren’t allowed to take the training wheels off your bicycle until you have logged 200 hours of supervised cycling.
Safety checklists abound and site safety inductions become ever longer. Yet still we regularly read stories of negligence and even criminal activity concerning workplace health and safety. And still the accident (and fatality) toll continues.
Of course, it’s all too easy to blame it on decades of the “she’ll be right” attitude to safety that typified the working environment of the last century – along with smoking and drinking on the job and building your own beach shack out of asbestos-laden fibro panels.
However, if the safety culture of 20th century Australia was flawed, it’s fair to say that this century’s attitudes are a step in the right direction.
Above all, the recognition that there is such a thing as a safety culture within every company that sets the tone for the behaviour of the workforce is a massive step in the right direction.
Likewise, it is essential that management not only “buys in” to the safety culture, but positively promotes it – regardless of the short-term effects on productivity.
Clearly, there is no point in devising a safety checklist for personnel to go through before starting a task if ample time is not allowed for the safety checks to be performed.
Australia’s industrial safety culture has certainly changed for the better over the past 20 years, and the majority of companies are doing the right thing in impressing the culture on their employees.
But the accident statistics and the high-profile prosecutions do not lie. The culture is not universal.
Even something seemingly as simple as proper workplace traffic management is not universally applied – and as our documentary video shows, the consequences of failure can be fatal.
If it takes shock tactics to bring about change, then so be it. Because nobody should die at work.