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Compliance - The Carrot Approach

Why do good companies make bad decisions about work health and safety? Frankly in our experience it is because a company director or owner is concerned primarily with making money, rather than spending it. Compliance with the WHS Act is often approached with the attitude “I’ll worry about it if something happens”. Company owners frequently take the approach that it is an acceptable risk to not actively comply with the Act because the chances of anything happening that will draw the attention of Safework SA is small. This head in the sand attitude is at least a little bit understandable so far as it goes, but what if complying with safety legislation didn’t actually cost much at all? What if it were free?

Firstly, lets weigh up some of the benefits of compliance with the WHS legislation.

Worker Empowerment = Trust

In a workplace culture where workers are afraid to raise issues, risks remain unidentified and unmanaged. Workers need to feel they can speak about issues that concern them, and feel they are listened to and respected. Remember, your workers are the experts on the risks of their work because they live with them every work day, and you should listen to them.

A Trusting Culture Leads to Lower Injuries

When workers feel empowered to speak up about issues without fear of reprisal they are more comfortable raising potential hazards before they cause injury. Not every injury results in a workers compensation claim, but even small companies can see a saving in workers compensation levies when their claims numbers and/or severity reduce.

Increased Morale Reduces Absenteeism

Absenteeism costs Australian companies an estimated $33 billion dollars in productivity annually Absenteeism may be due to genuine illness, poor culture or anger at management, stress or other occupational factors. Increasing morale can substantially improve occupational culture resulting in significant reductions in absenteeism. Speaking personally, many years ago I was bullied mercilessly by an indirect manager, and I had many of what people call ‘mental health days’ to cope. Once I changed employers my absenteeism issue disappeared literally overnight.

Direct Cost Savings

I have known several business owners personally, and have heard of many more, who rely on their workers to bring money into the business. When those staff are injured, or are working in a poor organisational culture, their absence means a direct impact on the financial circumstances of their employer. Needing other staff to work overtime to cover production losses attributable to absent staff can be a significant cost.

Indirect Cost Savings

When a worker is absent due to injury or stress there are indirect costs that are not easily seen at first glance. Managers trying to juggle workloads of production staff, the time taken to obtain labour hire, and other administrative tasks increase when workers are absent from their jobs. With a decrease in injuries, workers compensation claims and absenteeism, indirect cost savings become more obvious.


A company should have a simple communications procedure that describes how and when communication and consultation takes place. This procedure, if followed, gives staff the comfort of knowing they will have a voice in the organisation and can raise issues. The key to the success of a communications procedure is ensuring managers have the appropriate skills to listen, understand and collaborate with staff.

A hazard management procedure that outlines how hazards are going to be identified, assessed and controlled is the other essential document a company requires to develop a good organisational culture.

By having, and living by, these two documents a company can go a long way towards meeting the obligations to provide a safe workplace. The harder part is sticking to the requirements of the procedures.

In order to achieve low cost compliance, contact Safework SA who have an enormous library of resources designed to assist business owners to manage safety in a simple fashion.

Alternatively, Moore McPhee WHS Consultants has a suite of off the shelf basic safety compliance systems for purchase. Visit to see what is on offer. As many industries have similar risk profiles, even if we don’t have a pack specifically for your industry call us on 1300 362 351 and we can advise which one to choose.

Moore McPhee WHS Consultants specialise in the needs of small and medium businesses. We are here to help and can provide cost effective solutions for your business. Contact us on 1300 362 351, or speak directly to our Senior Principal Consultant Vanessa Moore on 0401 382 083 or at [email protected] for a confidential discussion about your particular work health and safety needs.

Disclaimer: Any advice and information in this article is general in nature, does not take into account particular circumstances and should not be construed as professional advice. Unless specifically stated otherwise, the information in this article is prepared for South Australian Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking as defined in the SA Work Health and Safety Act 2012 only. The information may be applicable to other states of Australia that have adopted the harmonised work health and safety legislation but is not guaranteed.


© Moore McPhee WHS Consultants Pty Ltd 2016. All rights reserved. Copyright from other authors is acknowledged were applicable. Do not copy, publish or reuse without permission.

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