We recently had a workplace health & safety officer attend our offices to provide further training for our consultants about WH&S for our contracting candidates.
I’ll be honest; it scared the hell out of me!
It turns out I was ignorant to the huge fines that can be imposed on employers by authorities if someone injures themselves in the workplace. Even the smallest things can result in fines that would cripple most agencies should they lack previously implemented controls around WH&S. During the visit, we were told horror stories detailing incidents where people slipped off their chairs resulting in $500,000 dollar fines where liability would have been easily minimised if the employer had better WH&S polices in place. These fines are not covered by most insurance policies, and subsequently they must be paid by the company.
Could your agency financially survive a $500,000 fine?
I instantly thought of the many Real Estate offices I worked with that I knew were completely unaware of the risks they are exposing themselves to by not having strict WH&S policies in place. For this reason I approached Adrian Taylor, Managing Director of 80:20 Management Consulting to write a guest post about WH&S, highlighting some of the risks Real Estate Agencies are exposed to and how these agencies can attempt to protect themselves & their employees. I really hope this post gets everyone thinking about how they can better protect their employees and their businesses. My message to all of the agencies out there who do not have a WH&S policy in place: Please don’t wait until it is too late.
Spotlight on WH&S in the Real Estate Industry
The moment I mention health and safety in an office environment, I sense most of the audience switch off. There are a couple of points however, that never cease to rouse their attention:
- Don’t have an “If you are injured” poster displayed in your workplace? Penalties of up to $35,835* apply to your company as well as up to $7,167* for an individual can apply. Additionally, this $35,835 poster must be displayed where all workers can read it.
- Breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act? Penalties of up to $1,075,050* for a company and $215,010 for an individual.
* WorkSafe Victoria Website, as at 1st May 2012
These are just a few of the potential penalties that apply to office environments who are unprepared. Your OH&S obligations also increase dramatically if you have employees who are working off site (such as holding inspections at properties.)
The link below outlines the minimum requirements of an employer when taking into account employee safety and I am always amazed at how few people know what these requirements are, particularly within white collar environments.
Health and Safety doesn’t just relate to the physical either. Many people I speak to have never heard of “Brodie’s Law” and its implications. Brodie’s Law details that workplace bullying and Harassment Laws can lead to prison terms of 10 years as well as massive fines for businesses. Employers are liable for turning a blind eye to workplace harassment as much as they are for participating.
I know it all sounds like doom and gloom but unfortunately sometimes it’s the only way to get people thinking about it and making the changes required by Law.
Consulting your employees in relation to their Health & Safety is often the first step in providing a safer work place. If you discuss the concerns and hazards identified by your staff, document the findings and start working towards implementing controls, you can help improve the safety of your workplace.
From a Real Estate point of view there are a number of different risks that confront staff every time they go to a customer property, for example;
- Driving Hazards en route to property
- Electrical Hazards on site (old/faulty wiring)
- Maintenance Hazards (Damaged floors, Termite Damage, Asbestos)
- Un-Restrained Animals
- Working alone with the general public
- Trip hazzards
WorkSafe Victoria has provided a good starting point with their Real Estate “Out of Office Safety” publication available here:
When sending employees off-site, you need to implement effective policies and procedures to ensure that they are safe on the journey to the site, whilst on-site and on their return journey.
Does your office have task specific policies in place to protect your staff? Or have you put WH&S to the bottom of the pile, potentially risking everything you are working so hard to achieve? Protect yourselves now; don’t wait until an incident occurs to put the spotlight on safety.
If you require guidance on where to begin with assessing your safety risks, implementing controls and ensuring compliance with your regulatory requirements please contact Adrian on 0403 523 352.
+61 403 523 352
Adrian Taylor is a Safety, Quality and Environmental Consultant with over 10 years’ experience developing and implementing Safety Management Systems for small, medium and large organisations.
As Managing Director and Principal Consultant of 80:20 Management Consulting, Adrian has worked with a broad cross section of businesses from small manufacturing companies to large construction, Gas and Infrastructure projects.