Health and safety audits target medium-sized biz

By: Graham Gardiner

Every one of Queensland’s 7,000 medium-sized businesses will face a visit from a Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) inspector

Every one of Queensland’s 7,000 medium-sized businesses will face a visit from a Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) inspector between now and February 2011 due to alarming rates of injury and illness.

As part of the Medium Sized Business Initiative (MSBI), sixty businesses in Caboolture and North Brisbane are already participating in a free voluntary advisory service facilitated by WHSQ.

These businesses will then have two months to review and improve their safety management systems before the formal evaluations start in November.

Industrial Relations Minister Cameron Dick says while medium-size businesses keep the economy strong, they have a relatively high incidence of workplace injury.

"While employees in medium-sized businesses make up 20 percent of the Queensland workforce, they account for more than 30 percent of all workers’ compensation claims," he says.

"This initiative is about working with medium-size business to turn these figures around."

Workplace Health and Safety inspectors are currently visiting 200 businesses in Caboolture and north Brisbane areas, including Brendale, Bray Park, Warner, Narangba, Burpengary and Morayfield.

The MSBI will then be reviewed next month to reflect the key lessons learned from the pilot.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Qld) State Manager for Workplace Health and Safety, Steve Griffiths, says he encourages employers to participate in the trial.

"This is a huge opportunity for Queensland businesses because one of the problems is that they usually don’t know where to start when it comes to health and safety," he says.

"Now they can be shown what to do, and really kick-start their safety program."

In preparing for the audits, Griffiths suggests employers get their hands on any records such as risk assessments and workplace health and safety meetings minutes.

"This way they are not wasting time looking for documents during the audit," he says.

Griffiths also discourages businesses from embarking on a "massive clean-up" prior to the inspection.

"You want it to be an honest assessment, or you are just cheating yourself," he says.

Industry-specific fact sheets will be posted to each business at the start of the initiative, outlining injury hotspots in each priority industry.

The three components to the inspection include: information gathering, safety management systems and hazard identification.

Businesses interested in participating in the free pilot can contact Workplace Health and Safety Queensland information line on 1300 369 915.

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