Do you know what makes your employees happy? Have you taken the time out to ask them about what you could change in your business to improve their time at work? Are there processes in your business that need refining that are also adding stress to your employees? Are you getting the most out of your employees or are they struggling?
The difference between a good H&S culture and a successful H&S culture is context—the understanding about who your H&S processes and strategies are for, what you and your employees really want deep down and why they will care about this more than that. We spend most of our time trying to make people care about a company’s systems and processes, when we should be trying to create systems & processes that people will want to use.
I can assist you to tap into the core of your business, to uncover you and your employees’ unique abilities to create change and to show you how that translates to value for your business and your people. I want to illustrate to you how to make H&S something that your people will value so that you don’t have to work so hard to try and make your people value your business and health and safety.
Health and safety strategies, systems and processes should no longer be used as a tactic used to sell compliance. It should be about finding ways to create understanding, connectedness and meaning and making people feel something, rather than making them do what you want them to do in the short term.
You could spend your time working out how to make people act in any given moment or you could think about how you would like to make them feel about your business, their co-workers and themselves in the long run. This will create change.
Do you ever have the feeling that you were brought into this world and someone forgot to provide you with the operators manual for your mind? Some days the world looks wonderful, the next you just want curl up into a ball. Most days your mind just keeps running and you hope that your mind’s fuel tank will run out of fuel so that you can have a few moments of peace. You find that you are heading from one disaster to another and your steering wheel of life just won’t respond to your input. Are you inadvertently infecting your co workers with your stress at work and so exacerbating the cycle for you and others around you? Are you also therefore increasing your risk of having a workplace incident or accident because your mind is full and you are not being mindful?
How do we create change ? How can you find your operators manual for your mind and get off that wild roller coaster ride? There is no one correct answer but with diligent practice, as with every new skill we attempt to acquire, we can begin to get a handle on how our mind works and become the driver of our mind and not just the passenger.
You might be asking ..What is mindfulness? Mindfulness is the process of trying to be aware, in an accepting and non judgemental way, of what you’re thinking about, what you’re feeling, and what your body is up to. Mindfulness allows you to be present and aware of what’s on your mind, without identifying quite as strongly with the stories you habitually tell yourself and without needing to change anything about the experience you’re actually having. I’m not saying that you should be free of thought, but that you have the freedom to have your thoughts along with a big scoop of peace of mind. You will find yourself responding far more calmly in situations and your thinking will be clearer and you will be less distracted by your thoughts.
Can your thoughts be just on the present moment? We all have the ability to focus our attention on what’s happening in the present moment, here in the NOW, and that when we achieve this the mind quietens down and becomes calm. Our lives can only be in the NOW but we tend to spend all of our time in the past or in the future , therefore missing the moment we are in. Contemplating the past and the future also happens to be where most of our stressful thoughts arise. What’s happening right now, what we are doing or working on RIGHT NOW is likely to be far less stressful and requires your full attention.
In my next few articles we will delve deeper into mindfulness and how we can practice on implementing changes in our lives. Let’s start with something really simple so you can start practicing mindfulness.
Many people that I speak to don’t know how to meditate or think that they can’t. That it’s all about sitting down in some weird position and chanting a word or phrase or making some weird throat noises. Well it could be for some but it doesn’t need to be.I guess we should use the word Silent awareness because that is what it really is. You become aware and you become silent. Silent within yourself. The external world can still be noisy but you let that wash over you and you become still. You don’t concentrate on anything because concentration brings about tension, tension in your breathing, tension in your body. Just become aware…of the breeze on your face, the sound of the car going down the road, the lawnmower in the background…but don’t focus on it, just be aware.
You will become aware of your breath, and the deepening of your breath and the stillness increases. Sit quietly and simply observe your thoughts , emotions and physical sensations, let them go. You can watch those thoughts but don’t focus on them..they are just like the car driving down the street. When a negative or unpleasant event pops up, observe it and observe your response to the event. Be mindful to how you are feeling emotionally and physically but don’t attach to it…Let it go. The same goes for pleasant thoughts…..observe yourself and your response and let it go. It’s like you are watching yourself on a television screen, you don’t become involved you just watch. Mindfulness encourages you to be intentionally aware of the thoughts and physical sensations that arise whenever possible and to just accept them as mental energy that arises and then as quickly moves on.
You can bring about this silent awareness wherever you are. You can walk to a meeting at work and be in awareness. You are aware of every step, how your heel touches the pavement, how your skin feels in the sun, how your body moves. The most precious times are those when you can be in touch with yourself. Everything melts away and yet you become acutely aware that you are a part of everything.
Many people in WA think that Emmett Technique is a new modality, but it has been around for quite a long time. Here a Physiotherapy balance test was used at an aged care facility showing good results. The outcomes are significant as they show that these participants are able to lift their legs following the Emmett session, thereby changing the way they walk. Lifting your legs stops the shuffling that we see in so many of the elderly. By lifting their legs they are less likely to fall. The study also shows an increase in balance, something that is so important in the elderly to reduce the risk of a fall.
I believe Emmett Therapy should be in all Aged care facilities to help reduce the number of falls and thereby decrease the number of neck of femur fractures that occur on a daily basis.
Studies show that hip fractures in the elderly are associated with high 1-year mortality rates. Patients with associated congestive heart failure, dementia, renal disease, and history of malignant tumours led to shorter survival times. Patients who underwent surgery more than 4 days versus 48 hours after admission had greater 6-month and 1-year mortality risks.
Just by reading these figures it should be a priority to introduce new methods within our health care system to reduce the number of falls that are occurring on a daily basis. The results that I am seeing with our Move Easy Program participants indicates to me that implementing an ongoing Move Easy program in Aged care facilities should be an absolute priority.
Take care and have a Safe day.
The memory of that day still sits clear in my mind, I will never forget it. I didn’t get hurt physically but I still bear the mental scars of that day. One moment is all it takes and everything can change. In my situation there could have been up to 8 people dead. Luckily we all lived to work another day.
My years as a paramedic gave me exposure to so many different accidents, some of them so mind boggling that you couldn’t have created them for a movie script. Most of them however were avoidable. The amount of times I have heard someone say….. but I’ve been doing it this way for fifteen years and nothing has ever happened…yes I would be a millionaire. We become so complacent in our attitude towards our work and our activities that we begin to not see the danger in some of the most basic activities that we undertake. It’s like dropping that sock on the floor..after a while we just keep stepping over it and it becomes the norm, we just don’t see it anymore.
Anyway, back to the story about the day my world nearly stopped spinning. We had been called out to a MVA (motor vehicle accident) and we were advised that power lines were down and still live. We were also notified that the firies were on their way and Western Power .
We arrived on the scene and saw that a vehicle had struck a power pole with the pole now lying on top of the vehicle, which was wedged at a 45 degree angle in sand off the side of the road. Sparks were flying off the wires and we had no intention of going anywhere near it. On this day I was the Paramedic who would attend to all the patients and my junior partner was the driver for the day. We spoke to the driver from a distance and ascertained that he was in pain but alert and orientated to time and place. We certainly couldn’t do anything for him until the area was made safe.
Being in a emergency service situation does not allow you to take the time to sit down to do a JHA and fill out the required checklists etc but you are exposed to situations where you have to step back and assess the situation…constantly…because things can change in an instance. Like it or not, whether it is scientific or not you also rely on your gut instinct..your years of experience kick in and you sense that something is not quite right… and you look ad re-assess again..and again…and again.
So, before we could attempt to extricate our patient out of the vehicle we had to wait for someone from the Power Company to come out and de-energise that part of the grid that was alive. Eventually a WP employee came to us and stated that he had de-energised the system and that it was safe to proceed.
We proceed to the car and the firies checked that the lines were de-energised. If you can imagine that the car is at a 45 degree angle with the driver’s window closer to the ground..or sand in this case. The driver’s window was wound down and we were able to take some vitals to see how he was faring. As this appeared to be a high speed collision we took the necessary spinal precautions and put a neck collar on our patient. By this time the other firies had walked across the fallen power lines behind the vehicle and had opened the door which was now pointing straight up into the air.
My partner and I walked behind the vehicle, across the fallen power lines and around the other side to discuss with the firies how we were going to extricate our patient. It looked like I was going to have to get into the vehicle.
Following our discussion I walked back around the vehicle, over the fallen power lines and back to the open driver’s window. I proceeded to take a further set of vitals from my patient. At this point I had a firie next to me, who had remained talking with my patient whilst I had walked to the other side. As I was talking to my patient and had my arm through the open window of the vehicle I all of a sudden felt a jerk on my shirt as the firie pulled me away from the vehicle. In the next second he screamed..”It’s live, get back it’s live!!” . As there were power lines running over the top and side of the vehicle some of them were draped across the driver’s window and door area. With his gloved hand he had been leaning on one of the lines when he felt a tingle through his glove. Luckily he instantly recognised what it was. Within second the lines were live again. When I stood up from being bent over I looked up to check on my partner and looked straight into the eyes of a young firie who was still holding the door of the car open from the inside door panel.. I have never seen such a look of shear terror on anyone before…even in the eyes of people who are dying. The firie next to me calmly told him to gently take his hand off the door and to let it slam shut.
That day we were lucky …so lucky. There could have been 8 dead emergency service workers…..we later found out that this particular employee had only been in this section for a week and had only switched off one section of the grid, he had failed to go further up the line and switched off the main board which had then re-booted the switched off area .
How could this have happened? It wasn’t just a minor oversight but these are the kinds of situations that occur on a daily basis. Maybe not to this extreme but certainly along the same lines. Had it not been for the firie next to me I most probably would not be here writing this. We were lucky that a part of our emergency service culture was to always look after your partner and mates. It is the first thing you think about. It is ingrained in you…what can affect you and your partner…how can that risk by mitigated or avoided. Yes it would have been great if we could have been part of the lock out tag out process but in our situation it was not an option. You need to rely on other people to do the right thing and hope that they have required expertise, skills, qualification and knowledge.
So, what am I trying to say with this post…..As employees we all have a responsibility to look after ourselves and our colleagues…..even the ones you don’t get on with. It is about having respect for life and each other. We all think that paperwork is tedious and time consuming but it is there for a purpose. Look at your processes whilst you carry out your risk assessment. Understand them and refine them. Explain your processes to your colleagues, we are not mind readers and we all interpret information in a different way. Our age, sex, cultural background, physical, emotional, educational level etc and even our disposition on a certain day will affect the way we listen, hear and interpret information.
Be the best you can be!
I have taken many witness statements in my time and I have read many more. I am always stunned by the lack of depth and substance in the witness statements that have been provided during an accident or incident investigation. That being said, there is a fine art to writing a good statement and it does take practice….. a lot of practice. In this article I will be dealing with the DO’s of witness statements….I’ll leave the DON’T’S for another time.
1.Know the issues of your investigation and why the witness is providing evidence.
Before you attempt to take a statement from a witness make sure that you understand the main issues of your investigation. Only then can you start to dig deeper into the root causes. I always take the time to write my questions down as this keeps me on track if we veer off into a different line of questioning. Keep yourself open and listen to your witness, they will give you all the information you need and more but you have to remain alert and be prepared to meander down a different path to gather other evidence you didn’t even know played a part.
2.Identify the witness – who they are, why they are giving evidence and how they are involved
In this section I also provide the qualifications and experience of the person. Are they an expert in their field or someone who has just started out? I also make a note as to who they are employed by.
3.Listen to the witness
As previously stated, listen, listen ,listen. Before I even start taking the statement I will usually have a chat and get the person to tell me about the event in broader terms. This gets them thinking about the event and it’s easier to flush out the finer details when you start writing your statement…I always type my statements.
4.Let the witness tell the story
This is their experience so it must come from them. However, you will need to be able to ask the correct questions to be able to draw out further information. Some witnesses love to waffle so be mindful of that and bring them back to the question you want answered.
5.Use the active form – what the witness saw heard, said or did.
6.Use the past tense
7.Use the witness’ own words
This is quite important. If the witness uses slang then use that slang in the statement. If the statement ever gets brought up in court it would look a tad strange if the wording, phrases and sentences didn’t match the way the witness spoke. The validity of the statement could be questioned.
8.Introduce documents but don’t paraphrase them
When taking a witness statement you may have a series of photographs and documents that you would like the witness to look at and to perhaps comment on. For example, you have a document which is a procedure in relation to forklifts. On the front of the procedure you have written the letters JB and the number 1…so it looks like this JB1…Let’s say the witness’s name is Joe Bloggs, so the JB identifies his name and the 1 identifies the procedure as the first document in a series of documents. So you could have JB1, JB2, JB3 ..you get the idea. Now why do we do this? So we can reference the documents throughout the statement when we read it but also documents, photographs and other pieces of evidence need to be referenced in a statement in order for them to be presented in court as evidence. I’m not saying that every time you do a witness statement it will be presented in court, but it shows that you have done a thorough investigation and is a great way refer back to statements when you are writing your report etc.
9.Let the documents speak for themselves
10.Talk about one thing at a time – remember: one thought per sentence, one sentence per paragraph
Keep the statement clean and easy to read
11.Use paragraph numbering
12.Use headings if you think they will help, but keep them neutral
I don’t really like to use this but if it helps you structure your statement then go ahead. I find that if you have your questions ready then you won’t need to put headings and the statement will flow
13.Put your instructions as questions
14.Prepare the statement without input or with minimum input from other witnesses
I find this is a big issue. You really don’t want your witness’ evidence to be corrupted. When you sit a bunch of people in a room people’s memories start to change and someone else’s memory becomes your memory.
15.Avoid collaboration between witnesses, where possible
Collaboration may actually make the situation worse. Where a clear cut case could possibly be defended, collaboration can make the investigation difficult and blame may be placed where it shouldn’t be.
16.Take care when preparing witness statements to ensure that they contain the truth.
17.Make sure that signatures are at the bottom of each page and time and date to accompany final signature and declaration.
18.All mistakes, additions , alterations and deletions should be initialled by the person giving the statement. A deletion/mistake should be carried out with a line stroke through it leaving the original words legible.
I hope that the above points have given you some food for thought. In one of my next articles I will break down the structure of the witness statement and talk about what sort of questions you should ask.
If your company has had a serious incident or accident or is being investigated by WorkSafe we can assist your business to carry out in-depth investigations.Our personnel have years of experience in managing, coordinating and undertake highly sensitive and complex investigations of fatalities, traumatic accidents and serious incidents and preparing prosecution and legal reports for lawyers. We are also able to undertake legal privilege investigations for your in house general counsel or for your legal firm.
Contact us on 0408 955 929 or email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Working from home is a concern for many employers across Australia who ask themselves ” how can I control my employee’s home environment?” However, you must remember that you have a duty of care to all employees who work for you – regardless of where that work is undertaken.
If any of your employees work from home on a regular basis, you have an obligation to make sure their home office environment is safe. In other words, you will need to carry out a health and safety check and risk assessment of any home office before you allow employees to work there.
Some of the most common questions we get asked are:
Who is responsible for ensuring the safety of the workplace for workers who work from home? Is the entire home considered to be the workplace? Does the employer need to conduct checks?
If the business permits an employee to work from home, it has the same general duty of care to provide and maintain a working environment that is safe and without risk to health as it would if the employee was working at the principal work premises.
Under the Western Australian Occupational Health and Safety Act, a ‘workplace’ means a place anywhere employees work. This means that the areas of the home where a employee performs their employment duties are considered as forming part of the workplace.
What are your obligations?
- To ensure there is a safe working environment.
- Providing and maintaining equipment and systems of work that are safe and without risk to health (e.g. appropriate office furniture, ergonomics training, lighting, ventilation, etc).
- To identify hazards, assess the hazards and provide appropriate control within the workplace (e.g. home workplaces often include toys on the floor, protruding objects, dogs and children etc).
- To establish communication and appropriate employee conditions (e.g. agreed hours of work).
- To provide the information, instruction, training and supervision necessary to ensure health and safety at work (e.g. employees working excessive hours without breaks, fatigue, lapses in safe work procedures).
- To ensure the safe use, handling, storage and transportation of equipment and substances (e.g. storage of chemicals in the house used for printing, cleaning, etc. posing risk to children if not appropriately secured, sharp objects used by tradespeople).
- To take reasonable care for the health and safety of people who attend the home work environment of the employee (e.g. children, neighbours and other visitors).
Want to know more?? Email us on email@example.com and we will provide you with a FREE Checklist of 14 things a home office MUST have.
Sandra Junckerstorff is the Principal H&S Partner with Flip180, She has held senior H&S management positions within private industry and has also held the position of Senior Inspector with WorkSafe WA.
Did you know that Stress is the second most common cause of workplace compensation claims in Australia, after manual handling?Again and again, I’m amazed by our culture’s obsession with how much we can do, and how quickly we can get it all done. It’s not only stressing us out, but it’s affecting our health on every level. From heart disease and hypothyroidism to Type 2 diabetes and plain old fatigue, stress can play a huge role in disease.
More and more healthcare practitioners are encouraging patients to slow down, hit the “pause” button, or to have a little fun because these breaks are essential to good health. Taking a moment to pause can change heart rhythms, relax muscles, and improve immunity, to name a few benefits. What I find so amazing is that the body can and will respond favourably to the moments we find in life to pause. Taking a deep breath, stopping to listen to a favourite song, or just lying flat on the grass to check in with your body are all ways to send your mind and body the message to restore. And I promise these moments will pay off for your health and wellness.
Have a wonderful and safe day.
So you are sitting in your office when one of your employees comes to you and tells you that there is a WorkSafe Inspector at the front counter and is here to do an inspection of the work premises. Chances are that you’ll start getting nervous and wonder if everything is going to be ok. You think you have a good workplace and you sort of have got the whole “health and safety” thing under control. You meet with the Inspector who requests that you accompany him/her around the premises whilst the inspection is being completed. (more…)