A new University of Melbourne report has identified links between workplace health and safety measures and better business performance, including increased productivity, lower costs, greater innovation and higher profitability.

The report, launched today by the University’s Centre for Workplace Leadership and commissioned by Safe Work Australia, found that measures that support safety and reduce the likeliness of poor health in workers protects businesses against long term risks and costs.

Director of the Centre for Workplace Leadership and author of the report, Professor Peter Gahan said that this was a crucial area for businesses to address, as the cost was high for poor safety records.

“Productivity declines when poor safety means that employees are injured in and out of the office. Finding and training suitable replacements is far more expensive than reducing risks in the workplace in the first place,” Professor Gahan said.

“There is a strong case to be made that Australian businesses need to invest more to protect employees from accident, and to protect themselves from the costs associated with workplace injury.”

In Australia almost 130,000 serious workers’ compensation claims were made from 2011-12. This represents more than 12 claims per 1,000 employees. Employees who claim for a serious injury are away from work for an average of 12 weeks. During this same period 228 workers died due to a workplace injury or accident.

As well as the tragic implications for colleagues, family and the community, workplace accidents that result in death are estimated to cost between $11 and $19 Million.

“This report lifts the debate from the traditional but understandable focus on the costs of workplace incidents to also recognise the benefits to business productivity of good work health and safety,” Michelle Baxter, Acting CEO of Safe Work Australia said.

Some of the things businesses can do to protect against injury include:

  • Ensure someone has clear responsibility for workplace health and safety (WHS) performance and they are held accountable through their performance review.
  • Make sure your WHS approach is appropriate – what suits a large business may not be applicable to a smaller businesses.
  • Ensure everyone in your organisation is aware of the rules and the reasons they’re in place to protect them. Ensure all employees have a personal responsibility to keep the workplace safe.