The trifecta of risk which increases exposure to hazards

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Friday, 9 September, 2022 - 11:30
Industry news
National News

Attracting and recruiting staff, managing absenteeism due to ill health, and staff burnout are some of the most common challenges facing organisations across all sectors, according to an expert in risk management and the prevention of illness and injury.

“This a trifecta of risk which increases exposure to physical and psychosocial hazards which, sadly, may result in increased LTIs,” said Leanne Loch, an occupational health consultant and physiotherapist who serves as director and founder of Back on Track.

“Organisations, on the whole, are doing their best to protect, support and retain staff through these challenging times,” said Loch.

OHS professionals have had a particularly difficult role and over the past two years, and Loch said they have likely needed to become virologists and chief health officers.

“Now is the time to return focus to the basics of risk management,” said Loch, who recently spoke at the AIHS Visions Conference which was held from 7-9 September at Mantra Sharks in Southport QLD.

“Identify hazards through sound methodologies and analysis. Avoid the temptation to ‘cherry pick’ risk controls without first understanding your organisation’s hazard profile.”

Loch observed that businesses seem to be ‘siloed’ in their thinking about managing the risk of burnout and psychological harm.

“For instance, they seek psychologically focussed strategies to address mental health and seek physical risk controls for physical health,” she said.

“Human beings are integrated minds and bodies; physical and psychological health are interrelated.”

Organisations can leverage this by providing and supporting the physical health of their staff, she explained: “winter in Brisbane is a wonderful time for midday walks. Encourage staff to take their breaks away from the desk and get some movement,” she said.

Despite having the best risk management systems, Loch said organisations are going through challenging times – and injury and illness will happen.

“In small businesses, we often see the kindly office manager given the portfolio of RTW support after attending a one-day online RRTW course,” said Loch, who stated that is a reasonable action when the case is simple (such as a minor injury with a brief work absence) when all parties are communicating well and there is a supportive and communicative GP.

However, when there are complexities, such as (1) serious injury or illness requiring more than one week off work, (2) psychosocial risk factors such as interpersonal issues in the workplace, (3) when the work itself is high risk in terms or physical or psychosocial hazard exposure, or (4) when there are motivational factors, Loch said help is needed.

“There is a broad spectrum of success in the way organisations manage their risk of injury and illness,” she said.

“Generally speaking, the most successful organisations have experienced and qualified staff or they are partnered with an occupational health and rehabilitation provider.”