The most interesting winner at the Safe Work Australia was a small greengrocer, The Hub Fruit Bowl. This family run business improved their occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS) with little more than a free “Small Business Safety Pack” from SafeWorkSA (no longer available on the SafeWorkSA website). This is a remarkable contrast to the, presumably expensive, Dupont-based achievement of Australian construction company, Grocon. The win also illustrates the continued importance of the need for free, or cheap, practical plain safety advice. (Why isn’t there a Dummies Guide to Workplace Safety?)
The Hub Fruit Bowl’s achievement could have far-reaching effects as the low-cost approach can be applied to thousands of small businesses in Australia. The greengrocer has a healthy record of providing young people with their first jobs, jobs that include a solid understanding of workplace health and safety. The Grocon experience is more corporate and very common where solutions are sought from outside one’s business.
The Hub Fruit Bowl’s win should encourage OHS regulators to reassess their small business OHS strategies. Instead of funding OHS consultants to provide three or six hours of OHS advice, frequent encouragement and engagement with small business, structured round documented processes may be more effective. SafeWorkSA does not mention the concept of “case managers” but applying this to harm and injury prevention strategies may have merit. Providing sustained support and encouragement instead of a quick intense session should be seriously considered by OHS regulators.
It may also be useful to consider providing pro-bono safety services to small businesses, as a civic duty but also to freshen the experiences of safety professionals.