In recent years small businesses within construction services, such as electrical services, have both the highest claim rate within the construction sector and the highest risk status of all small businesses in Queensland.
To reduce these work-related injuries Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) have developed a new Industry Partnership Program which aims to increase businesses’ productivity, reliability, and reputation through improved work health and safety.
Early in 2014 WHSQ partnered with Master Electricians Australia (MEA) to deliver the pilot program to small electrical businesses throughout Queensland. By partnering with industry groups like MEA, the resources of both organisations are utilised to provide targeted services and tools to small businesses.
The program was available to all small electrical businesses regardless of membership of industry associations.
The first stage of the program was a workshop on how to develop a basic safety management system. Using scenarios and activities relevant to the electrical industry, the workshop covers topics such as:
- risk management
- Safe Work Method Statements
- hazardous manual tasks, and
Under the program framework participants develop a simple action plan identifying areas needing attention. Advisors can then visit the electricians on site to help implement the action plan, and provide future services such as individual support or group coaching sessions as needed.
WHSQ Small Business Safety Advisors and MEA Safety and Operations Co-ordinators have conducted three pilot workshops with most participants being sole traders and business owners employing fewer than ten people.
Prior to the workshop:
- Around 65 per cent of participants reported that safety management systems were either being developed, or were developed but not well implemented in their current workplace.
After the workshop:
- Around 75 per cent of attendees reported that their practical understanding of how to implement safety management systems had increased and they intended to develop action plans for improving and implementing safety management systems.
- A similar proportion of attendees also said they intended to participate further in the partnership program.
Malcolm Richards, CEO of Master Electricians Australia, considers the program a good opportunity for the electrical industry.
”Master Electricians Australia's mission is to champion safety in the electrical industry,” said Mr Richards. “We view this Industry Partnership Program as a great tool to assist in lifting the level of understanding of work health and safety requirements for small to medium sized electrical businesses across Queensland.”
Valuable feedback from the pilot workshops was used to improve the materials and approach used. Places for the second round of five workshops filled within one week and additional workshops were scheduled to meet demand in some locations. WHSQ and MEA view this as an indication that the program met a need for targeted and simple tools for small businesses in Queensland.