Handbook Extract: Injury prevention and safety programs

RTWMatters team

Preventing injuries is integral to reducing work disability.

The information in this article is from the Return to Work Matters Workplace Systems Handbook, under the "Understanding, calculating and using costs". The complete handbook is available in PDF and online format for all Return to Work Matters subscribers.

Injury or accident prevention works best when an organisation has effective systems in place, pays attention to the process and has a culture that supports injury prevention.

Organisations that say, "injuries should be prevented", but then expect staff to get things done quickly at the expense of safety are less effective in injury prevention and management than organisations that put safety first. 

The 12 planks of injury prevention

The key components of injury prevention systems are as follows:

  1. Get senior executive and management commitment to accident prevention and safety - This is vital because it demonstrates that the organisation takes the issue seriously. Active safety leadership has been shown to not only improve injury prevention, but also improve return to work rates.

    Senior managers demonstrate commitment by:

    - Expecting appropriate reporting structures;
    - Being interested and aware, and actively reviewing safety systems and procedures. For example, a senior manager's enquiry into random accident investigations demonstrates interest and commitment; and
    - Understanding risk management processes and systems.

  2. Review injury reporting and near miss statistics - The following should be reviewed, with the results made available to all employees in the organisation:

    - Statistics – for more information see Collecting case data;
    - The manner in which injuries occur and how they are managed; and
    - Accident investigations. Investigations should be reviewed by the safety leadership, supervisors, managers and the union.

  3. Document safety systems - Documentation of safety systems should be available and accessible. Risk assessments should be completed and the results available for viewing. Recommendations from the risk assessments must be implemented in a timely fashion.

  4. Train staff - Staff training in injury management should occur at induction, and on an ongoing basis throughout employment.

  5. Have an active health and safety group - that meets regularly and takes meeting minutes that are documented and distributed. The health and safety group should be made up of appropriate people from the organisation, including unions or employee representatives, management, and health and safety professionals.

  6. Set appropriate quantifiable goals - These should be documented and reviewed against performance.

    Goals should reflect injury prevention performance rather than the organisation's ability to 'hide' injuries. An organisation that declares years without a lost time injury may have conjured up clever ways of disguising injuries.

    Realistic measures include:

    - Days lost from work;
    - Claim costs;
    - Number of incidents; and
    - Number of injuries.

    Relying on one statistic alone, such as a lost time injury (LTI), allows for the distortion of statistics through strategies such as bringing the person back to work to complete forms.

    While there are some advantages in the LTI statistic, the resultant game-playing can diminish people’s trust in the organisation.

  7. Teach first aid and have appropriate medical back up - There should be enough first aiders to cover all shifts. Organisations that have potential for significant injuries should provide directions as to how employees receive emergency medical care, including directions to the nearest hospital emergency facilities.

  8. Investigative actions appropriately and look at all relevant contributing factorsA random selection of these should be audited by internal staff to ensure the process has been completed with due care and attention.

  9. Encourage staff to raise health and safety concerns without fear of reprisal - and put strong systems in place to support the reporting of problems. Once identified, problems should be dealt with quickly.

  10. Coordinate injury prevention and injury management systems - Staff involved in both areas should have regular opportunities to discuss issues, and programs should be jointly reviewed and coordinated.

  11. Review health and safety systems on a regular basis

  12. Ensure that site has adequate access to specialist services - Many safety systems require specialised knowledge. Few organisations have safety staff versed in all specialist areas. An organisation needs to be able to call on specialised services as required.

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