A staggering proportion of SMEs are creating potential nightmare scenarios for themselves and their workers through poor workplace safety compliance.
Workplace relations specialist Employsure, which services some 14,000 SMEs Australia-wide, revealed the results of its Workplace Safety Index, which suggests that 81 per cent of business owners don’t fully understand their obligations when it comes to workplace safety.
Surprisingly, however, half of business owners are confident they are meeting their obligations across all areas, despite so many not knowing what those obligations actually entail.
It presents a stark warning not only on the scope of potential compliance breaches among SMEs, but the fact that they may inadvertently be laying the groundwork for workplace accidents, injuries or illnesses to occur.
However, rather than SME leaders being wilfully ignorant, Employsure suggests it is the fault of overly complex – and ever-changing – red tape that is creating a nightmare compliance scenario.
“Business owners want to do the right thing, but we hear from them daily that they feel crippled by the complexity of what they are required to do. They are swamped and struggling to keep their head above water,” Employsure managing director Ed Mallet said.
“Our research found that small businesses want to improve their workplace safety, particularly around improved documentation, managing bullying, training staff and responding to an injury. They want to do more, but often don’t know how.”
Business owners may be surprised to learn, for instance, that they can be held liable for workers’ compensation for casual employees as well as those on a salary, while the six-figure bullying payout for a former teacher highlights the duty of care employers now face over the mental as well as physical health and wellbeing of their workforce.
Mr Mallet added: “With about 5 million Australians employed by small businesses, it’s so important that we get safety right and minimise the complexities and drain that compliance creates to keep workplaces safe. This isn’t just a workplace issue, this is a national issue.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.