Health and safety is not just a cost; it should be viewed as an asset.
- Statement of the Problem
- Research Aims and Objectives
- Research Questions
- Scope of the research
- Significance of the Research
- Limitations of the Research
- Thesis Outline
- Chapter summary and conclusion
FACT: By the time you finish reading this paper, 90 Australian workers would have suffered an accident or injury in the workplace. Globally, 120 people would have lost their lives and a further 18,306 workers have sustained a work-related injury. Workers are going home injured and some are not going home at all. ‘One deathâ€¦[one broken limb, one sprained ankle] is one too many (Adapted from Australian Bureau of Statistics 2014; International Labor Organisation, 2016; Safe Work Australia 2008, p. 2).
Every year in Australia, workers sustain injuries arising from work related accidents. Unfortunately, some injuries result in fatalities. Progress has been achieved over the past few decades by legislative initiatives and public efforts, in the form of policies and procedures, guidelines, Australian Standards and Codes of Practices. However, accidents and injuries in Australia is still unacceptably high. Prior to legislation in 1984, workplace accidents could have been considered an unavoidable consequence. Duty of care and responsibilities for health and safety was embedded into legislation that became a legal requirement throughout Australia.
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The financial, human and social costs of work-related accidents and injuries are a major concern for not only the individual workplaces but all levels of international and national authorities. Despite steady progress, accidents and injuries are still recurring and their cost in terms of human suffering and financial strain continues to be considerable. In 2014, there were 195 work related fatalities, making a total of 3,207 workers that have lost their lives since 2003, the beginning of reporting recommendations from the National OHS Strategy 2002-2012 (Safe Work Australia 2015b). In 2013, 4.3 percent or 531,800 Australian workers experienced a work-related injury (ABS 2014). According to SWA (2015a), the cost of WRI’s in the workplace cost the Australian economy over $61.8 billion in the 2013-2014 financial year or 4.1 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). These costs had increased by $1.2 billion dollars since the 2008-2009 financial year.
Australia has experienced declining rates of work related injuries since 2002 (SWA 2016). This could be explained by efforts reached within voluntary and regulatory actions to improve workplace safety as well as benefits from changes in work processes and deindustrialisation. Deindustrialisation was characterized by transferring investments from domestic to global enterprises that led to downsizing, relocation and closures as well as reorganisation of the labour market. Research in deindustrialisation has viewed it from two different perspectives. Some have viewed it a necessary and advantageous feature of contemporary capitalisation that is crucial to growth in a dynamic global economy and that with the consequential job losses should be viewed as a fleeting occurrence without long term consequences (Rowthorn & Ramaswamy, 1997). On the other side of the coin, deindustrialisation has been stated as cause for concern due to the negative effects on the community and workers with the loss of jobs associated with closures, retrenchment and relocations of premises resulting in unemployment and under-employment (Bluestone & Harrison 1982). In relation to health and safety, the pros and cons of deindustrialisation is the shift of the workforce from industries classed as high injury rates to lower injury rates reduces the risk to workers, whereby industries that downsized and forgoes maintenance, eliminated preventative health and safety programs or increased per-worker outputs with overtime could increase the risk to workers.
Research has shown that one group at greatest risk are new employees, irrespective of age or industry (Breslin & Smith 2006). For over a century international research has continually demonstrated that new employees are at higher risk of accident and injuries than workers with extended tenures (Breslin & Smith 2006; Burt 2015; Cellier, Eyrolle & Bertrand 1995; Cook 2003; Hertzman, McGrail & Hirtle 1999; Molleman & van der Vegt 2007; Root & Hoefer 1979; Siskind 1982). As early as 1918, Chaney and Hanna (1917) stated that workers within six months of tenure, had an injury rate thirteen times higher than workers with ten years of tenure. More recently, Breslin and Smith (2006) found that workers within one month had twice the lost time claims and were four times more likely to sustain an injury than workers with over twelve months in their current job. According to Liao et al. (2001) study of US firefighters’ injury frequency (number of injuries) and duration (time elapsed between injury and returning to work), they found that there was a 27 percent reduction of injury duration for each additional year of tenure.
Whilst the elevated risk of new employees has always been alarming, recent organisational developments as well as workers changing jobs more frequently have strengthened these concerns (Arthur & Rousseau 1996; Hall 1996; McCrindle 2015). Turnover, retirements, downsizing, privatisation and increases in industry is a natural evolution, where new employees’ will always be entering the workforce.
So who is a new employee? According to Molleman and van der Vegt (2007), new employees are defined not only as any person that has recently commenced work, but can also apply to any person that has previously worked in another employment that are new to the workplace. Researchers use the term ‘new employee’ or ‘newcomer’ to define individuals that have recently started a job (Burt 2015; Ehsani & Ibrahim 2008). New employees are often depicted as young workers, however, new employees can also be people that have formerly worked elsewhere but are new to the job regardless of past employment (Burt 2015; Delgoulet, Gaudart, & Chassaing 2012). The common denominator for new employees according to Ehsani and Ibrahim (2008) is the novitiate period and not age, level of experience or stage achieved in their career (Ehsani & Ibrahim 2008). The novitiate period is the length of time where the new employee adjusts and masters a new task, role or environment (Ehsani & Ibrahim 2008). For the purpose of this research, a new employee will be defined as a worker that has recently started work, irrespective of age and experience, within the past 12 months in any industry.
Australian industries are experiencing a progressive workforce that can either be consistent in number of employees yet constantly changing when employees leave or retire and new employees commence, or continually grow as demands increase that also introduces new employees to the working environment. This fluidity of new employees is what poses a stream of threats to worker safety within the working environment. According to Burt (2015) an influx of new employees to the workforce can be attributed to several factors including employee turnover rates, workplace arrangements through non-standard employment as well as the consequences of positive economic growth since the recession with reduced unemployment and creation of new jobs and the retirement of the baby boomer generation.
The ongoing destruction of permanent full-time jobs and their replacement with casual, part-time and contract labor has contributed to the escalating number of fatal accidents.
Contract workers brought onto the job for short periods-lacking familiarity with safety procedures and the general environment-are prime candidates for injuries and death. Generally, the host company takes little responsibility for these workers and makes no investment to train them. If injured or killed, they are simply replaced through a quick phone call to any of the myriad body-hire companies.
Maynard, 2001; Persson & Larsson, 1991; Somerville, 2002; West, 2004; Youthsafe, 1999
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