This presentation from SafeWork NSW shows that reducing the amount of time small business owners spend trying to understand their WHS obligations by 30 minutes each week can save the NSW economy $800 million and increase compliance.

Presenting recent research findings about the difficulties small businesses face in meeting their health and safety obligations, this video describes the resources small businesses want to help them keep their people safe. It also discusses the techniques and messages that genuinely help small businesses understand WHS legislation.

SafeWork NSW has developed a range of resources to reduce the time it takes small businesses to understand how to comply with WHS legislation and help them make improvements to health and safety in practice.

Who is this presentation for?

Work health and safety regulators, educators, professionals and practitioners.

About the presenter

Speaker is Tom Green, Acting Director, Regulatory Affairs and Communication Services, State Insurance Regulatory Authority.



I suppose we suspected that there was a problem. But then over the last year or two, reports at a state and national level have really brought that problem into focus. 

In NSW, there are around six hundred and eighty thousand small businesses employing about half of the workforce and each of those employers, particularly in the high risk industries, can be complying with up to seventy five different regulations each and they’re spending about five hours every week purely on compliance. 

For small businesses who have less time, less resources - complying with that stuff takes just that much more. 

One of their reports suggested if you could reduce the amount of time that a small business needs to spend on compliance by half an hour in each week, you’d be saving the NSW economy eight hundred million dollars every year. 

One of the worrying things for us was that work health and safety was touted as probably the worst offender in terms of the number of regulations and what you need to do to comply with that – I mean, with very good reason, but nevertheless it was exacerbating the problem so we knew there was room for improvement. 

Earlier this year we introduced a new website – better design, better content, better accessibility and with continuous improvement we know we’re making good strides in that space. 

But beyond the static web content, we wanted to look at how we could equip people with information to enable them to do the right thing. 

Now we knew from some previous segmentation that you could really broadly put people into one of two groups. 

There’s the group who are not massively engaged with health and safety at the moment. Sure, if you make it easy for them, they’re going to do the right things but they’re pretty conscious of their competing priorities. 

Then you’ve got the group that are really switched on already, really engaged with health and safety. They know what they need to do and they want to stay abreast of the latest news. 

So, for that group, we asked a thousand employers in New South Wales what information they’d like to receive on health and safety and also on workers compensation. 

We gave them thirty different article headings, tested them across five sets and covered everything from news and research, practical tips to case studies, thought leadership, technical information … and the results themselves were extremely clear. 

What people wanted was simple content, engagingly written and really task oriented. 

So, some of the headings that popped for them were: 

  • Workplace safety and the law - ten things every small business should know 
  • The two minute drill: identifying health and safety risks in your business, and
  • Five signs your workers are stressed out and what to do about it. 

So, really practical, really task-based and you can tell just from the heading if you were to spend two minutes reading this article you’re going to get something useful from it. 

We also tested their visual and design preferences and from those things we developed an e-newsletter called the SafeWork Wrap. 

Early signs are all positive, open rates over 40% - all the indicators suggest that it works and we’re doing some interesting experimentation in that space using some A/B testing. 

One other really interesting finding from that research was that the majority of respondents said – if we could provide them with some clear information on health and safety requirements they would save 30 minutes or more, every week. 

Here’s a quote from one of them: “As a small business owner, I want to get straight to the point and not read 100 pages when someone else can condense it into a framework for me.” 

Now, just going back to what I said earlier – if you could save small business on average 30 minutes each week on compliance, you’d be saving the New South Wales economy 800 million dollars. 800 million dollars every year! 

So we figured we should do something about this. 

We set out to develop some concepts, some content models for how to deliver the legislation in a really user friendly way. 

We tested these, we did some qual research this time, we interviewed 34 small to medium size business owners through a mixture of face to face and phone interviews and we tested a variety of formats, from excerpts from codes of practice to existing guidance material to these concept models that we’d also developed. 

And we’ve refined that model with them because the results from this group again were extremely clear. 

What they wanted was, number 1, tell me why this is an issue, what’s the personal relevance for me. 

Number 2, what does the law actually say. And here, they wanted some really clear line of sight to the legislation itself. 

And thirdly, how can I comply? What do you want me to do? Make it really practical. 

And they said if we gave this to them they’d feel that compliance would become possible.

And this has been a worry for us: If the requirements aren’t all that clear you’ve got one of two options, right? 

You either spend a hell of a lot of resources finding out what you should be doing. And small businesses don’t have that luxury. 

Or, you can be knowingly non-compliant – and that is not a great result. 

It’s not a great result for us as the regulator. And it’s certainly not a great result for small businesses who would be putting themselves and others at risk of getting hurt. 

They also said that this would give them reassurance that they were doing the right thing. 

They would know they were complying and they would know that what they were investing in was providing value and they wouldn’t be wasting their time on stuff that wasn’t. 

And for those reasons, they said they were more likely to take action – and getting them to take action to make their workplaces safer is really what this is all about. 

So this spawned a big body of work for us. 

We’ve broken down the regulation into about 25 to 30 topics and we’re developing content to deliver against the model that they’ve asked for. 

We’re also going to be introducing a layer of industry relevance because we know from some other research that small businesses in particular will relate much more to information if it feels like it’s for them, or at least tailored for their industry. 

And we’re looking to deliver all this in a really interactive way and we’re looking at some exciting opportunities for doing that later this year. 

Now, taking legislative requirements that everybody needs to comply with and delivering them in a way that everyone can understand just seems logical, right? It seems simple. 

And so the working title that we’ve got for this body of work is “Simple safety”. It just seems to make sense. 

We’re aiming to save people time, we’re aiming to save them money and through this process we’re aiming to save peoples’ lives.  

So, for those who aren’t massively up with their requirements for health and safety at the moment, for those in dark we should be bringing the light sometime later this year. 

For the other group who are really switched on already, who are super engaged and I’m assuming that if you’ve watched this video to this point you’re probably in that camp, go to safeworkwrap.com and see for yourself what small business wants. 

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