Occupational health and safety

There has been widespread recognition for the past two decades that poor performance in occupational health and safety - OH&S - has been a major barrier to competitiveness within the meat industry, with this not only contributing to unnecessarily high labour costs but also presenting a major constraint on the industry’s capacity to innovate.

Occupational health and safety is important to consider because;

  • the meat industry has one of the highest injury rates of any Australian profession
  • here has been a steady decline in the number of abattoirs in Australia, often due to crippling worker compensation costs
  • it is a very physical, hard industry for its workers
  • it is difficult to attract people to the industry

The primary objectives of AMPC and MLA's occupational health and safety initiatives are to;

  • foster a systematic, sustained approach to safety by improving systems and increasing knowledge and awareness of all stakeholders
  • create safer work environments through the development of technical and system innovations
  • support organisational change projects in an effort to increase the profile of the red meat processing industry and make it an employer of choice in the manufacturing sector
  • disseminate findings to industry with tools to evaluate and benchmark industry in OH&S performance and improve OHS performance

OH&S management systems

To ensure that important occupational health and safety issues are not overlooked, employers need to adopt a systematic approach to managing health and safety and establish an OH&S management system.

The starting point in establishing a management system that is effective in solving health and safety problems is for health and safety to be an integral part of the management function. No matter how systems are developed, to be effective, there are generally five elements of an occupational health and safety management system;

  • management commitment and policy
  • planning
  • implementation
  • measurement and evaluation
  • review and improvement

Where do I start?

An effective occupational health and safety management system needs to be a proactive system which is fully supported by the company from management to employee level. People need to be adequately consulted and included in occupational health and safety and trained effectively to give them the knowledge and capability to make the system work effectively.

Every organisation will be at different levels in relation to their occupational health and safety management system.

A good place to start when looking at improving your OH&SMS is to undertake a review by referring to the Australian Red Meat Industry OH&S Reference Guide - Online. In this you will find a section on occupational health and safety management systems in which you can review yours against the key elements.

For those with more advanced occupational health and safety management systems, you can refer to AS/NZ 4804: Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems  - in which a very systematic guide for improvements is documented.

Risk management

An essential step in the management of occupational health and safety in the meat industry or in any industry is ensuring that all hazards are identified, the risks assessed and effective control measures are developed and implemented.

Many organisations tend to only focus on obvious ‘adverse events’, that is, hazards where injuries are occurring. This can lead to not adequately addressing hazards with a low probability of occurring but with a severe consequence if they do occur or with a perceived low risk/minor issue. This in turn leads to a threat to employees and also to the continuation of the business.

The term risk management is used widely. It can be applied to all areas of an organisations operation and is not just used to apply to health and safety. The most common way risk management is used in relation to health and safety is specific to the hazard management element. That is:

  • hazards are identified
  • risks are assessed
  • control measures are determined and implemented
  • organisations monitor and review to ensure risks are effectively managed

Further information

The Australian Red Meat Industry OH&S Reference Guide - Online provides further information and resources that will help you manage risks as part of your OH&S management system or you can download the following example documents: