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Take a Safety Moment for your Wellbeing

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October is National Safe Work Month, and Safe Work Australia has been encouraging everyone to “take a safety moment” to reduce the risk of injury in their workplace.

According to WorkSafe data, in 2017, 191 people went to work and never came home, losing their lives in workplace accidents. A further 106,000 made a claim for a serious injury.

“Taking a safety moment can be as simple as spending five minutes every morning talking with your team about the hazards and risks in your workplace."

Michelle Baxter, CEO of Safe Work Australia, says that an incident can happen in a moment—but a moment’s forethought can prevent one.

“Taking a safety moment can be as simple as spending five minutes every morning talking with your team about the hazards and risks in your workplace and how to prevent harm,” Baxter says.

The construction industry has one of the highest rates of death and injury of any sector. However, there are some simple ways to “take a safety moment” and actually improve everyone’s odds of ending the day in good health.

Start a Conversation with a Cuppa

Dr Paul Johnston, Lead Consultant and Facilitator for WHS RTO and consultancy Safety Dimensions, tells Jobsite that most successful approach he has used is what he calls “coffee cup risk management.”

Basically, the idea is to sit down with people working on a site and have a casual conversation over a cup of tea or coffee. And after a few minutes of chat—start talking about safety and risk issues.

Dr Johnston says that after a couple of months of taking this approach, safety is perceived as “business as usual” rather than something in its own silo off to one side of the main game.

Using this tactic on major projects, he found that people would start approaching him to discuss a safety issue, rather than reacting with a degree of reluctance when spotting the safety person in their vicinity.

“Having a cup of tea or coffee with someone breaks down the barriers,” he says. “It builds rapport.”

Moreover, safety is too often seen as a separate matter, he says. For instance, a company policy might say that it aims to have “a productive workplace and a safe workplace.”

“Why not just say, ‘we aim to have safe production?’,” Dr Johnston asks. “It needs to be intrinsic to what we do.”

“Why not just say, ‘we aim to have safe production?’,” Dr Johnston asks. “It needs to be intrinsic to what we do.”

The other positive of the cup of coffee approach is it takes the safety out of the realms of being overly structured, he explains.

Reality is that almost everyone has something to contribute to the safety dimension on site, whether that is speaking up when they identify a risk situation or sharing knowledge specific to improving safety practices.

Dr Johnston says he prefers the term “safety facilitator” to the title of “safety manager” because ideally people whose role centres on the WHS procedures and practice should “actively facilitate, not just manage or indeed manipulate.”

There’s another benefit from taking the time out for a cuppa too, Dr Johnston explains, in that it gives people a break.

This is part of embracing the concept of mindfulness in the workplace, and also building relationships by catching up with people during a break. When there is that rapport, people are more likely to say something when they spot a safety issue, he says.

“You need to think outside the square with safety—and build rapport and the culture first. Then you can have those conversations.”

Watch a Video

Sitting down to watch a safety video used to mean getting the crew together in front of a TV screen! Nowadays, you can access a range of free video resources around safety from just about any digital device.

Safe Work Australia has produced a range of online, free-to-access video WHS resources, including some specific to the construction industry.

It’s simple things matter” was produced specifically for Safe Work Month and is aimed at construction industry workers and supervisors.

It highlights the risks of complacency and the importance of daily checks that the essentials have been taken care of, such as wearing hard hats, wearing ear and eye protection when grinding, having para-webbing around holes and caps on exposed bars.

Augment Your Sun Smarts

According to Cancer Council Queensland and the Victorian Cancer Council, there are still many of us confusing the temperature with the UV level. Their message is—just because it’s not stinking hot, doesn’t mean there’s a smaller risk of skin cancer if working outdoors without appropriate protection.

A Cancer Council Victoria survey found more than a third of Victorians don’t know the correct indicator of sunburn risk, with 22 per cent of Victorian adults between the ages of 22–39 selecting temperature as the most useful way of calculating their sunburn risk.

Technology can help you know when you need to “slip, slop, slap and slide.”

“UV radiation is the major cause of skin cancer, but the problem is none of our senses can actually detect it."

For example, Deakin University researchers have developed an augmented reality app, SeeUV, that enables you to take an image of your surroundings anywhere in Australia and view the hidden intensity of dangerous UV rays around you.

“UV radiation is the major cause of skin cancer, but the problem is none of our senses can actually detect it,” SunSmart Manager Heather Walker says.

Another useful tool you could take a moment to install is the SunSmart UV Alert widget. This will give you a snapshot of the UV levels at your location throughout the day ahead, using Bureau of Meteorology data as one of its inputs.

Look after Your Mental Health

Researchers have found that stress, depression and other mental health issues can increase the risk of workplace accidents—so take a moment to care for your mental wellbeing.

The Black Dog Institute, a mental health support and research organisation, has developed an app called Snapshot that allows you to confidentially asses your state of mental and emotional wellbeing.

The app looks at your general level of happiness and anxiety as well as work stress, sleep, alcohol intake, and social support. It also provides feedback and options for any support or help that may be useful.

If you liked this article, here are a few eBooks and webinars you may enjoy:

The Future of Construction Safety

Building a Culture of Safety – One Hard Hat at a Time

How Tech is Controlling Your Quality & Safety Program

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