In 2012 small businesses employed 4.6 million Australians, representing around 43 per cent of private sector employment. Running a small business can be demanding and often the requirements for complying with work health and safety laws can be daunting.
WorkCover New South Wales (NSW) began the Mentor Program to help small business comply with NSW's work health and safety laws. It involves large businesses (mentors) pairing with smaller ones (mentees) to help them with their work health and safety and injury management issues.
Components of this program include:
- Having mentors that are some of Australia's best safety leaders.
- Assiging an appropriate mentor to a mentee through a matching process.
- Mentors visiting their mentees to provide information and advice and preparing an action plan for managing risks. This may include developing a safety checklist or a more sophisticated systems approach, depending on the needs of the business.
- WorkCover NSW hosting a series of workshops, webinars and networking events for Mentor Program participants to share information and ideas.
- Harnessing the power of the mentor relationship in changing safety behaviour as well as improving business opportunities.
The Mentor Program has assisted over 330 businesses since it began. The 2012-2013 program involved 27 large business mentors providing practical support and assistance to 42 small business.
A book Mentoring – Safety at its Best tracks the journeys of 69 businesses that took part in the program. It contains photographs and stories highlighting the significant results mentors achieved with their small business mentees and the positive relationships built with WorkCover NSW over the course of the program.
The success of the Mentor Program's impact can be seen from the following quotes:
- "Whilst health and safety has been the main focus – our mentor has also shown us how health and safety ties in with the overall business and how this can benefit our overall business approach."
- "We are now winning new business as a result of our safety practices and our work in the Program is a significant contribution to that."
- "I enjoy showing others that safety is not as hard or expensive as people believe."
- Free best practice. Who wouldn't want that?"
- "Together we've established a safety system that is not only operational but effective."
- "Partnering with our mentee allowed us to experience safety issues faced by our typical customers."
- "It's about creating a culture of caring."
WorkCover NSW will continue to provide the Mentor Program to small businesses with the focus on building productive and profitable relationships in business communities across NSW.
For more information on the Mentor Program visit the SafeWork NSW website.