Safety on a job as a tradesman is a personal responsibility, this simple fact is in state and federal law. Yet the company is the one who pays Workcover. It is part of prospective employee questionnaires. My current employer questionnaire was 50 questions, 49 of which asked if I liked to smoke pot, or punch on in the pub. The one and only question that mattered was if safety is my – the employees – responsibility.
It’s the line manager and the company who have to constantly cover their arses because medical injuries and lost time injuries are real measured KPI’s. This intrigues me because from site to site there are differences as to what constitutes proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and, more importantly, what is best practice on the job.
Each supervisor has their own idea of how a job should be done. As a boilermaker, process is fairly set in stone regarding how to weld and fabricate. I’m talking about what you need to protect yourself. In ye old days, ya rocked up in clothes and your KPI was how fast it went out the door. Nowadays it’s spats, specific gauntlets, aprons, welding sleeves, separate grinding helmets, reflective tape on your pants and shirt, hi-vis coloured shirts, take-five training, specific GSM weight clothing, lace up steel toe or elastic sided. it goes on. A standard operating proceedure for the use of a hammer FFS.
The time lost changing PPE from task to task is noticeable. For some sites it can be as much as an hour lost per week. On the tight margins the industry is in, that is huge. Some companies need to process a tonne of steel in 19 hours to get a margin of 1.5%. The industry is crying out for athletes and all they get is potheads and rum drinkers.
As a business owner the costs of employment are huge. Wages, superannuation, payroll tax, workcover, providing PPE*, providing tools#, casual rates, and so on. The real hourly rate skyrockets. No wonder some firms analyse performance against KPI’s so strenuously. Recently, a casual employee got fired because he injured himself. What a world! A blokes meal ticket is gone because he works In a high risk industry and the company has to pay for it!
Personally, I would rather to be not be subject to the nuances of any site specific PPE because I’ve learned not to injure myself and I don’t appreciate some guy standing over me everyday making sure I don’t cut my finger. Equally, I don’t like my fellow employees cutting themselves and being told to go to a GP because they have to report it, which goes from a LTI (Lost Time injury) to an MRI (Medical reported Injury) which impacts our KPI and, most importantly, leads to a higher work cover premium on the business which impacts the viability of the company through decreased margins.
It seems as though employers are scared because employees are working under their roof. Regardless, every business pays an insurance premium and gets punished for individual behaviour.
Workcover should be the responsibility of the individual. No fucking about. The individual makes the choice to wear PPE, or not, and lives by that. Workcover Insurance premiums are made by the individual. You injure yourself, you pay for it. People would smarten the fuck up immediately if it came out of their wallet. This is an irrefutable law.
Could we do away with casual loading if workcover insurance was a personal responsibility? I think so. What if we did away with casual loading entirely and gave every employee four days sick leave regardless? I would be happy.
Perhaps, If we keep Super as an entitlement paid by the employer, then medical injuries can be paid out of that pool. Would the APS individual who claimed workcover for injuring themselves while shagging after hours be so ready to claim a payment if it directly impacted their own insurance premium? Or if it impacted their super? I doubt it!
Now what about incidents that involve death? Well, the premium the individual pays covers that. After all, it’s an interaction of two individuals. I don’t see how the employer is in anyway (or should be) responsible. If I had a social event at my home and two of my invitees decided to punch on, should I be liable? NO.
There was a stat going around a few years ago, everyday day two people die as a result of a accident with a forklift. Is that why accreditation went from $150 for an eight hour course to $1200 and upwards for a three day course? Talk about barrier to entry.
Basically, if we have laws that say safety is your own responsibility then the costs of that should be paid by the individual.
As an aside….
My brother lives in France and decided to buy a business so he could stop working for the man and instead earn a margin He had to pull out, not because the books were dodgy (even though they were) but because he needed to hire two people to grow the business which would have cost him €4000 per month per person before he has earned a dollar. I believe the company has now folded. That’s depressing news, but on a par with any first world country.
* – as a boilermaker companies provide welding gauntlets, leather aprons etc
# some companies provide tools for god knows what reason or even pay an allowance for bringing your own tools. There are tax deductions available.