X
GO

Work Options News

rss

Information of interest to our Clients and for the industry


workoptionadmin
workoptionadmin
workoptionadmin's Blog
Is burnout costing your business? Here’s what to do about it.

Picture this… you’re the GM or CEO of a booming commercial company; you’re well connected and well respected within the industry; you rise above any challenge, find superior solutions to any problem, exceed all expectations and the business thrives because of it; you’ve got a nice little holiday home, drive a European car and fly business-class. But here’s the problem… the holiday home sits empty because you work seven days a week, 52 weeks a year; you rarely see your kids before they’re in bed, only ever eat on the run and haven’t been on a date with your partner in months; you’re gaining weight at a steady pace and even the strongest pain-killers are no longer easing your migraines; you can’t take your mind off work, feel as though your constantly putting out fires, and you’re stress levels are through the roof. So is it all worth it?

While studies into burnout have been happening for years, acknowledgement and awareness have only recently become more prevalent within Australian businesses, with workers from the CEO to the receptionist and cleaner often ignoring its symptoms. But not only is burnout affecting the lives of those experiencing it, it’s also costing businesses billions of dollars each year in absenteeism, presenteeism, accidents and injury.

And this is a problem! Job burnout is associated with work stress and is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion, usually involving a sense of reduced achievement, which can be related to health conditions such as depression, illness and disease. Symptoms can include becoming cynical or critical, irritability and/or impatience, decline in productivity and concentration, fatigue, lack of satisfaction or physical illness. So whether you’re the CEO of this particular booming business, or you recognise symptoms in your employees, it’s so important that they are not ignored.

Here are some key areas to focus on:

Lack of control – do workers have control of their own schedule, projects or workload? Do workers have all the resources they need to do their job?
Role and expectations – do workers clearly understand their role and expectations, how much authority do they have and do they feel valued?
Demands – are workers able to cope with the demands and workload of their role?
Relationships and support – do workers have positive working relationships, with open communication, with co-workers and managers? Do manager’s micro-manage work? Are workers receiving encouragement and support for a job well done?
Organisational change – if change or restructure is taking place, are workers well managed and effectively communicated to?
Activity extremes – is the job monotonous or chaotic? Both can lead to burnout.
Work-life balance – does the job take up so much time and effort that a worker is missing out on time with friends or family, or doesn’t even have the energy to take part in activities outside of work?

It’s important to remain object and keep and open mind when you consider these questions… because at the end of the day, health is more important than ticking an item off your to do list.

“Presenteeism is a concept that describes people being present at work but not productive. Current research shows this to be a $33 billion loss to Australian industry.”

If you’ve realised that burnout is in fact prevalent in your workplace, take action! There are plenty of small things which can help:

Evaluate the options – what is priority 1 on you or your workers to do list? Work together to determine expectations, problems and solutions, what needs doing now, and what can wait. Be realistic.
Get help – reach out to support networks: co-workers, family and friends. Anyone who might be able to assist either in collaborating you to get the job done, or provide you with some stress-relief. An Employee Assistance Program is a great tool to provide counselling, support and useful techniques to manage stress and build resilience.
Take your mind off it – try a relaxing activity or hobby that might assist in taking your mind away from work, even for 10 minutes.
Exercise ¬– there’s a lot of research proving that exercise is a great stimulant for improving mental health. Get moving!
Rest ¬– as with exercise, sleep is vital to functioning at full capacity, not to mention allows you to think clearly and make good choices.
Practice mindfulness – there are plenty of Apps available which can take you through mindfulness techniques to calm and reduce stress.

So after a bit of re-prioritising, delegating and practicing some mindfulness, you’re still the CEO of a booming commercial company; still well connected and well respected; and you’re taking the family to the holiday home for the weekend, while you switch off your phone and enjoy some ‘me’ time. Because what you’ve just learnt is that well-managed workplaces are proactive about burnout, see issues as they arise and are prepared to put workplace health first.

The importance of critical incident debriefing in preventing psychological injuries

SafeWork NSW has recently circulated information highlighting the risk of crush injuries, as a result of two fatal incidents where truck drivers have died while working on or near their trucks. And it got us thinking… what about the psychological injuries caused to others who are unfortunate enough to witness incidents like these?

 

History tells us that high risk industries are almost guaranteed to succumb to a worker fatality at some point.

 

As of the 6th of June there had been 64 Australian workers killed at work in 2019. In 2018, that number totalled 157.

 

What history also tells us, is that for those who are exposed to or involved in a workplace incident, the first two hours are critical in assisting workers deal with their physical and emotional reactions.

And the reason being is because exposure to critical incidents can lead to significant distress; recurrent thoughts, anxiousness, mood changes, restlessness and shock. And gone untreated, distress can lead to long-term physiological issues such as Acute Stress Disorder or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

By providing really early intervention to a fatality or major incident on site, psychologists can counsel workers to assess their current state of mind, diagnose shock and determine if they are at risk of developing long-term psychological injuries.

Here are five critical incident management tools to assist in supporting workers:

1. If you’re in a high risk industry, prepare workers for a possible critical incident:
• Develop procedures for responding to and identifying critical incidents and ensure staff are educated and aware of procedures
• Contract suitably qualified safety consultants with experience in critical incidents and critical incident management
• Asses the workplace for safety hazards and ensure all necessary PPE is available

2. Demobilisation (rest, information and time out) is the best way to calm workers following a critical incident, ensuring their immediate needs are met as soon as possible:
• Convene with all workers, summarising the incident and clarify any uncertainties (ensure all workers have the opportunity to ask questions)
• Provide Psychological First Aid (supportive and practical assistance via assessing needs and concerns, ensuring basic needs are met and connecting people with information)
• Provide a course of action moving forward, and alter workplace responsibilities and roles where necessary

3. Defusing (immediate small group support) should be conducted by a qualified employee or external contractor and is an opportunity for workers to review the event, talk about what happened, receive advice and support. Defusing should take place within 12 hours of the critical incident occurring.

4. Debriefing as a group should take place approximately one week after the critical incident. It is an opportunity for workers to put things into perspective once they’ve had a chance to process what has happened. Often a knee-jerk reaction to a critical incident will be that ‘I don’t need to talk about it’, but often within a few days the worker may find that they are now experiencing other psychological or physical issues as a result. Debriefing allows a qualified counsellor or safety expert to assess the risk of long-term psychological injuries, determine if acute stress is present for individual workers, and can provide management techniques and tools to handle emotional reactions.

5. Follow-up support is key in psychological injuries; shock around trauma is known to manifest over time and can worsen if not addressed or spoken about. If workers find that their shock builds momentum, they are losing sleep, having recurring thoughts of the incident and are struggling to move on with every day duties, this may be a sign of a psychological injury such as acute PTSD. Workers who expressed significant concerns at earlier stages of the critical incident management process should have continual follow up support with a trained professional.

When it comes to preventing the onset of shock, and potentially acute stress or PTSD, after a critical incident, it’s recommended that all workers be involved in the critical incident debriefing process. Although many workers will be able to return to normal duties within a short time frame, if not immediately, it’s important to note that serious accidents are one of the leading causes of PTSD in Australia. But more importantly, it’s treatable and, with the right help, avoidable.

For more information or help with regards to critical incidents and psychological injuries, see our Work Health Safety Services or call 02 9957 1300.

Common Injury Management Mistakes Guaranteed to Rise Insurance Premiums

As an employer, you have a lot on your mind when a worker gets injured… I’m not going to meet the deadline; how will I get the job done now; what will this cost me; should I hire a temporary replacement?

The last thing you need to add to the stress is the cost of your insurance premiums rising because you haven’t followed the correct procedure or not acted quickly enough.

At Work Options, we see a lot of situations where an employer’s insurance premiums rise because of common injury management mistakes. Here are the top 6:

Not offering suitable duties
Offering suitable work duties is critical to the return to work process and keeping your insurance premiums down. How? Returning to work in some capacity is proven to significantly increase the chance of the worker returning to a pre-injury capacity, assisting their physical and mental recovery, in a much faster timeframe than doing nothing at all. In turn, there are less costs for medical, legal and wages.

Not acting soon enough
It’s pretty simple really… failure to report the injury will result in delays in the claim, treatment approvals and actions taken by the insurer to start the process; all costing valuable time and money, lost wages, and ultimately a slower return to work. You should notify the insurer within 48 hours of a workplace accident or injury.

Not being active in the process
We hear it from workers all the time… “My manager acts differently towards me since my injury”. Unfortunately some employers don’t take an active part in a worker’s recovery and return to work until they notice a jump in their premiums. Not only does this often lead to conflict between the two parties, but workers will feel undervalued and employers forfeit any control they have over the direction of the claim, ultimately resulting in rising premiums.

Not having a rehab provider involved in the early stages

It seems pretty obvious that complex injuries require specialist advice, support and treatment… and without it, the return to work process will take longer. Simple to do – just ask your insurer to refer. Did you know that the cost of a rehab provider does NOT go onto your claim cost?

Not making WHS a priority

Prevention is ALWAYS better than a cure! Again, it seems like a simple task but unfortunately many Australian businesses don’t implement WHS initiatives because they either lack the know-how or resources. Education, appropriate PPE and tailored WHS policies and procedures are the best way to reduce the amount of injuries which occur in your workplace, keeping insurance premiums down and reducing costs in the long run. Ever wondered why workers are repeating injuries in the workplace, or how they are aggravating existing injuries? This is all avoidable when you make WHS a priority!

Termination of injured workers
Here is the biggest mistake you can make! Firstly it is illegal to terminate an injured worker within six months of a work-related injury, due to their injury; secondly by terminating an employee within three years of a claim, your premiums are likely to escalate..

It’s easy to be frustrated when an employee is injured at work, but it’s important to act quickly, offer support and provide suitable work duties, to get the worker back to work, with minimal disruption to the business. And you should know… if suitable work duties are not provided, your insurer is required to calculate an estimate for wages to be added onto the claim, and history tells us this can be somewhere between one and up to eight years of wages!

The best option? Protect your business by engaging an experienced Return to Work Provider to help you navigate through the minefield of regulations and technical information and avoid costly mistakes.

Workplace Health and Safety Policies: employer versus employee responsibilities

It is a common misconception that maintaining a safe workplace and reducing hazards lies solely with the employer… but it’s important to note that employees have responsibilities too. Employees should be well versed in the company WHS Policy and positively contribute to a risk-adverse safety culture.

Did you know that 36% of Australian workers think that risks are unavoidable in the workplace? Or that 24% think that minor incidents are normal at work? Pretty big numbers, huh? Does this sound like people who are aware of their safety responsibilities? And employers aren’t completely innocent either… 18% think that workplace risks are unavoidable.

This is why correct policy and communication is imperative to your business. So what are the differences between employer and employee responsibilities around safety? Let’s break it down:

Employer’s responsibilities:

• Prepare, share and acknowledge the company WHS Policy and ensure all employees are aware of their safety responsibilities
• Minimise or eliminate all hazards and safety risks whereever possible
• Ensure all relevant safety legislation is adhered to, and written into the policy
• Provide all employees with appropriate training, ensuring that they can confidently and safely perform tasks
• Provide all necessary PPE and safety equipment
• Consult and communicate with employees on all things related to safety, health and wellbeing
• Have a suitable reporting process where employees can advise of any risks or health and safety concerns
• Have a detailed return to work program prepared should an injury occur
• Consult an injury management specialist as soon as an injury occurs

Employee’s responsibilities:
• Be aware of and adhere to all company WHS policies and procedures, including following safe work practices
• Wear all provided PPE and utilise safety equipment where instructed
• Report any hazards, injuries or incidents to management using appropriate reporting channels
• Take reasonable care and precautions with regard to your own safety
• Participate in all safety training and consult with a supervisor when unsure
• Report to work in a state which is fit and safe for duty

Want to change your WHS Policy for the better? Take these points, adapt them to your business and copy them straight into your policy! Because if there’s anything we’ve learnt here, it’s that no matter where you think your company’s policy stands, it could always use a health check. And not only when you’ve recruited new employees, altered job responsibilities or moved premises, but any day of the week! Adopt an ‘analyze, improve and share approach’, and create a collaborative risk-averse safety culture.

An Employee Assistance Program Story

Sarah* was into her third year working for a major Australian news publisher, was head of a small team and caught in the middle of a company-wide restructure that bought with it much uncertainty.

“There was a lot of movement happening within the company which seemed to take forever for any actual changes to be made… people were getting fed up with the lack of communication from management, worried about their job security and a lot of people ended up finding new jobs elsewhere. And they weren’t being replaced fast enough or at all so the workload was massively piling up”.

With an ever-increasing workload, a team to support and a system database crash adding to an already stressful working environment, a relationship breakdown with her boyfriend was enough to push Sarah to breaking point.

“I was burnt out. I really honestly just didn’t care anymore… as soon as I cleared my plate of one thing, another issue would come up”.

Sarah had seen the Employee Assistance Program posters around the office, and vaguely recalled the email come through advising employees of the new initiative, and decided it was time to take notice. And rightfully so.

“I called the number and was offered help straight away. They asked if I’d like a one-on-one or phone session and I took the phone option. I think I was entitled to around eight sessions which my employer paid for. I only had three though… after three I had my head in a good enough space to get myself back on track. And it was good to know I had other sessions available if I needed them later on”.

Sarah was provided with confidential counselling which offered coping strategies to deal with her work-induced stress, and offered suggestions on how to best manage work-life balance and deal with her break-up.


“The lady running the EAP gave me a bunch of coping strategies to deal with the stress at work and the reassurance that it was only temporary while the re-structure was taking place. She also helped me deal with my relationship breakdown and gave me a bit of confidence that it was okay to take time for myself”.

And Sarah credits the Employee Assistance Program for providing the support she needed at the time, in both her work and personal life.

“I am really glad that I did the EAP because I’m not sure what I would have done otherwise. Probably quit my job and have even more stress to deal with. And now I am focused again, doing well at my job and am emotionally available to me team”.

*Sarah, 26, New South Wales

For information on how an EAP can help your employees and business, see Employee Assistance Programs.

The Role of an EAP in Improving Staff Performance
When we talk about poor mental health, it’s easy to think of personal problems like family and relationship issues, financial difficulties and a myriad of other concerns that occur in our every day lives. But what should really be at the forefront of our minds is work; the act of balancing work and home life, excessive demands, pressure to perform, lack of support… if it relates to work then it without question relates to mental health.

 

Every year in Australia, mental health concerns equate to approximately 6% of total workers’ compensation claims.But with the growing rate of mental health cases, awareness also grows and, in turn, strategies to manage the adverse effects.

 

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provides employers with a positive and proactive approach to assisting workers who may be affected by personal and job related issues. It involves providing access to confidential counselling sessions, either in person or over the phone, for employees and their families, and puts them on a path towards a positive mindset.

So, how does an EAP actually improve staff performance? Let’s look at the facts because they’re alarming – poor mental health in the workplace is more prevalent than ever.

1. Each year 7,200 Australians are compensated for work related mental health concerns
2. Mental health related workers’ compensation claims cost $11 billion annually
3. People suffering from severe depression take 20 times more sick days per month than other workers

By providing our employees with a proactive platform to work through their concerns, with tailored strategies recommended by a trained professional, we encourage them to stay at or return to work, feel supported and happier. And happy employees create a positive and productive work environment! So let’s discuss some of the more specific benefits:

1. Increased employee productivity
It’s pretty simple really… when you’re mind isn’t distracted by a lengthy list of concerns, you’re more focused on the task in front of you. In a 2014 PricewaterhouseCoopers report it was identified that Australian businesses lose around $10.9billion annually in lost productivity.

2. Increased employee retention
It goes without saying that when employees are happy at work, they’re more likely to stay there. And the confidential nature of an EAP provides an outlet for those employees who wish to be discreet when it comes to mental health issues, or don’t have the means to gain access privately. An EAP lets employees know that they are supported at work, while assisting them to gain the help they need.

3. Increased employer profits
Remember that $11billion figure? When you’re employees are at work, productive and focused, you’re getting a return on your investment. There’s no lost money on sick days, deadlines being pushed back or contributing to co-workers stress levels. In the above mentioned PricewaterhouseCoopers report, it was discovered for every $1 invested in mental health initiatives, a return of $2.30 was received. And $3.60 for every $1 in the electricity, gas and water industry and $6.70 in mining.

4. Affordability for employers
The great thing about an EAP is that it can be relatively inexpensive to implement and can often cost far less than paying for a mental health related workers’ compensation claim. Consider an EAP an investment for your business, promote it to all your employees and calculate the return.

5. Positive clinical outcomes and a happier workforce
If you’ve ever had to step in to complete someone else’s task when a co-worker is off sick, you know the additional stress and ripple effect it can often create. By implementing an EAP program, not only are you helping your employees to better themselves and become happier, but the overall workforce won’t be adversely affected. A positive EAP program can often assist in creating a strong, collaborative and productive team.

For many Australian businesses, an EAP is already an integral part of their WHS strategy, implemented to assist in employee wellbeing. But for others, it can be executed as a response to an unfortunate event or used as a liability tool… but they’re missing out. Because not only does a positive EAP program provide qualified help to valuable workers who need it, it also assists employers gain back a percentage of lost absenteeism days, and ultimately improves the businesses bottom line.

What To Do When an Employee Fails a Drug Test

For many Australian businesses, particularly within the civil, construction and mining industries, random drug and alcohol testing is common and an accepted part of life at work. But what happens when an employee fails a drug test? It may seem like a fair and reasonable response to terminate an employee when they have intentionally put themselves and others at risk, but it’s rarely best practice; in fact it could land your business in hot water and result in a substantial legal risk.

So even though decreased productivity and absenteeism related to drug and alcohol use costs Australian businesses $5.2billion annually, employers must follow correct procedures when an employee’s screen receives a positive result. Here’s what to do:


1. Don’t make assumptions!

It might be easier said than done, but now is not the time to judge. Firstly, the result could be attributed to an over the counter or prescribed medication. And unless you know all the personal details of your employee’s life, you don’t know what they’re going through; if they are using drugs or alcohol, it could be as a tool to deal with a significant issue or personal problem.

2. Make sure the employee is safe at work

Employers have a duty of care to ensure that employees are safe, and not putting themselves or other people at risk. It is your responsibility to ensure that your worker complies to WHS practices if they have received a positive drug screen. This means ensuring they are not operating machinery, driving or doing any other work that requires a negative drug or alcohol result, in order to be completed safely. They should be stood down and not allowed back to work until they pass a drug screen. CAUTION: check whether they are entitled to be paid whilst stood down.

3. Notify the relevant people
Depending on your organisational structure, there will be a number of people who will need to be notified. This may include HR, the employee’s supervisor and the person in charge of workplace safety. It may also affect co-workers if the employee’s role needs to be changed temporarily. CAUTION: you need to afford the employee privacy so tread with caution and only provide necessary details to only those with a genuine need to know.

4. Do NOT terminate the employee

For many employers, disciplinary action or immediate termination may be the initial reaction to a positive drug screen. It’s important however to understand that there is a process involved, legally speaking, and that the employee is entitled to a fair process. Acting irrationally can often lead straight to an unfair dismissal or other claim against the business.

Take for example the case of Harbour City Ferries versus Toms; in 2013 Toms was asked to fill in for a colleague who had called in sick and crashed a ferry into a wharf. It was later discovered after a positive drug test, that Toms had smoked marijuana the night before. Because Harbour City Ferries had a zero-tolerance policy to drugs and alcohol, Toms employment was terminated. Due to the fact that he was not actually scheduled to work on the day of the incident, and various other mitigating factors, the Fair Work Commission agreed his dismissal was unfair and he was reinstated. However Harbour City Ferries then appealed the decision, focusing on the importance and legitimacy of the policy, and it was overturned.

So why bring it up? Because it presents a valuable lesson for employers… drug and alcohol policies and procedures should be tailored to the individual business and specific industry, taking health and safety obligations into consideration. And they must be enforceable and properly communicated to employees to ensure valuable time and money is not wasted!

5. Check the company’s Drug and Alcohol Policy, and follow it!

For the safety of workers and the business as a whole, a comprehensive Drug and Alcohol Policy must be in place, and a ‘zero-tolerance’ policy is not enough. It should be clear, detailed, consistent in its application and enforceable, and workers must be well educated on the policy, procedures and consequences. Read about the most Common Pitfalls of a Drug and Alcohol Policy to avoid being caught out.

6. Get help from the appropriate people

Once you realise that a worker has been using drugs or alcohol, it’s important to seek out the experts to understand what the employee is going through and why. This means consulting the person or business running your workforce health, or getting someone on board if you don’t have one. They will be able to provide advice, information, and support and, navigate you through any legislation.

7. Support the employee as best as possible
Once again, take the time to understand why the employee may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and offer them as much support to get help as possible. Refer them to an Employee Assistance Program to support their mental wellbeing and provide coping strategies and resources, provide a Drug and Alcohol Management Plan and offer them phone numbers of helplines and online resources which may assist.

With 275 million people worldwide, aged between 15 and 64, using drugs at least once during 2016, and 62% of alcohol and drug users employed fulltime, it’s easy to jump to conclusions and act irrationally when an employee fails a drug test. But for the sake of the employee’s wellbeing, and the potential legal ramifications for your business, best practice is always to follow the correct procedures. Having the right policy in place, and following the correct procedures, will give you the level of protection you need.

The Latest Drug Trends from NDARC

Drug and alcohol use at work is becoming more prevalent than ever, with a staggering number of related workplace accidents and injury being recorded in Australia.

Not only do drugs and alcohol increase risk, but can contribute significantly to absenteeism, productivity and incidents, and potentially cost thousands of dollars in claims for the employer.

The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre have released the latest drug trends from their 2018 findings. View them here: Illicit Drugs Reporting and Ecstasy and Related Drugs Reporting.

Unfairly Dismissed for Drunkeness at Work?

Have you heard about the Cannon versus Poultry Harvesting case?

Here’s a bit of background. Ms Cannon was employed by Poultry Harvesting and described her work as moving a large piece of machinery with an attached conveyor belt for the purpose of loading chickens onto trays. Once the chickens were loaded onto the trays, they would be put into trucks for delivery.

So what led to Ms Cannon being terminated and the ultimate unfair dismissal case?

It was night shift on Melbourne Cup Day and consuming “three or four glasses of wine” earlier in the day, Ms Cannon fell asleep on the job. With the job itself requiring two people to manage, and Ms Cannon sleeping, 50-60 chickens were consequently killed.

The boss was called in and found Ms Cannon passed out and smelling of alcohol. So what would you do? In this case the employer terminated her immediately, arguing her conduct created a serious health and safety risk. He also argued that there was a well-known company policy, which had a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to drugs and alcohol in the workplace.

Unfortunately for the employer, the Fair Work Commission (FWC) disagreed and found the worker was dismissed unfairly and awarded the employee 6 weeks wages as compensation (nearly $7,000). This did not include the employer’s costs and stress of running the case.

Are you shaking your head yet? Are you asking, ‘how can someone turn up to work drunk, causing big financial burdens, and walk away with compensation’? The issue in this case is less about what the employee did, rather what he did NOT do.

Here’s where the employer went wrong…

The employer’s policy documents were too general and unclear

Commissioner Wilson found no substantive evidence that workers were bound to a ‘zero tolerance’ policy. He said the employer’s documents contained ‘general knowledge’ about drug and alcohol restrictions but did not make it clear what was expected, and when.

“While the evidence supports a finding on the balance of probabilities that [the worker] was aware that consumption of alcohol at work was not permitted, or that presenting for work in an intoxicated state would not be permitted, I am not able to find that [she] had been warned or was aware that consuming alcohol to any level prior to presenting for work was not permissible”, Commissioner Wilson.

The employer failed to investigate or verify the worker had consumed alcohol

Commissioner Wilson also found the employer did not have sufficient knowledge about the worker’s condition to find she was intoxicated, and took no informed or objective assessment of her condition before sacking her. In addition, the worker had not been provided with an opportunity to respond to the allegations, or to have a support person present.

Lack of training

It was unclear whether the worker was aware of or given access to the Policy and training on it.

Inconsistent application of policy and procedure

The Commission found that the policy was aimed at correcting problematic behaviour (e.g. testing, counselling), however, this was not offered to the worker. Further, the employer contradicted its own decision by allowing Ms Cannon to continue to work her shift, despite finding her unfit for work.

Key learnings for employers from this case:

  • This area of the law does not always pass the ‘logic test’ – it’s very complicated
  • A general policy must have a procedure behind it that clearly lays out what must happen and when, it is a real risk to your business otherwise
  • Doing an internal assessment of whether someone is affected is fraught with danger – get an independent expert to ‘properly’ assess intoxication (alcohol testing)
  • Train your people on your policy and document it!

Read the full case.

The biggest pitfalls in workplace drug and alcohol testing policies

The statistics on drugs and alcohol use in Australian workplaces are alarming – a staggering 25% of work accidents involve drugs or alcohol! It’s an important issue that needs to be managed, not only for the immediate health and safety of employees, but also to protect employers.

Take the Cannon versus Poultry Harvesting case study for example; an employee, who showed up drunk to her job at a chicken farm, fell asleep and approximately 50 chickens were killed as a result. Noticing her breath smelled of alcohol, she was reminded of the organisation’s ‘zero-tolerance’ policy and terminated immediately. The worker claimed ‘Unfair Dismissal’, to which the Fair Work Commission agreed, and was awarded nearly $7,000 in compensation.

How does that make you feel? Shocked?  Unfortunately, the reality is that the employer’s Drug and Alcohol Policy didn’t measure up to standards and was not consistently applied.

So how do we make sure this doesn’t happen to us? How can we protect our employees and ourselves in these situations?

The reality is that many employers want to keep people safe at work, prevent dangerous and costly workplace accidents and maintain a good brand reputation. But, despite these intentions, many will fail because their policies and procedures aren’t thorough, or their execution isn’t adequate.  Or even worse, their employees aren’t educated or aware of the policy.

So what are the most common pitfalls in drug and alcohol policies and procedures?

1. The half-baked approach

This is where a simple 1 – 2 paragraph policy exists, simply stating the attitude of the business towards the issue. Typically it states how the organisation ‘will not tolerate drugs or alcohol in the workplace’ or ‘has a zero tolerance approach to drugs and alcohol use’. That’s all there is, and it’s certainly not enough. The policy needs a detailed procedure to back it up, and a series of steps to be followed to reinforce the policy.

2. Unclear procedures

Ensure the procedure is thorough by detailing the who, what, where, when and how of the organisation’s drug and alcohol management program. It should state who is tested (e.g. employees, contractors), what drugs are being tested for (e.g. which drug classes), where (e.g. on-site, off-site), when (e.g. random, post-incident, for-cause) and how (e.g. urine vs saliva) and by whom. It should also detail what support is available to workers and disciplinary procedures.

3. The ‘catch and sack’ approach

This is where procedures are considered harsh, unjust or unfair such as immediate termination following one breach of the policy. The risk here is employers open themselves up to unfair dismissal claims. When considering unfair dismissal claims the FWC will look at the employer’s policy and procedures, whether it was followed and applied correctly, what process they went through to make their decision, any training and support offered to the worker and whether the decision was fair, just or harsh (amongst other things).

4. Inconsistency in the application of the procedure

Inconsistency in the procedure application and fairness are common problems in enforcing policies and procedures. Often an employer may miss a step, intentionally or otherwise, or manipulate the procedure to get the desired outcome; for example, deliberately targeting a person in a random test… which of course, is not random! Other times they may terminate a worker without following the procedural steps… again, not the correct procedure!

5. Lack of training

This one is really simple, but so often not done. Employers need to ensure that all workers are trained on the drug and alcohol policy and procedures – at induction and ongoing, and sign training attendance sheets. Employees should be educated on the dangers of alcohol and drugs in the workplace in all standard training, and made well aware of the organisation’s policies and procedures. Best practice is to include a competency test to show that the employee understood what they were taught.

 

It is understandable, despite their best intentions, how an organisation can fail to implement positive drug and alcohol policies. But it is a critical one to get right! Not only will having a clear, detailed, fair and enforceable procedure be more successful in eliminating drugs and alcohol in the workplace, but it will save your bottom line in the long run!

A simple guide to talking to employees about mental health

Responsibilities at work may not always be the sole cause for poor metal health, but for some people, workload and stress can be a significant contributor. In Australia employers have a duty of care to ensure that employees are safe at work, both physically and psychologically, and can confidently perform their job without any adverse affects. So what happens when you suspect an employee is struggling mentally, and how do you approach it? Here are some steps to follow:

1.       Arrange a confidential meeting
Ensure that you arrange a confidential meeting, in an environment away from prying eyes where the person can feel comfortable. Be professional when scheduling so that you don’t further contribute to stress or anxiety.

2.       Be familiar with your workplace mental health resources
Be well versed in any company policies around mental health and resources available such as Employee Assistance Programs. Have hand-outs printed and sealed in a folder for the employee to take with them.

3.       Adopt an honest, upfront and caring approach
Start off by providing encouragement and pointing out the employees strengths and contributions that they bring to the business – it is important that they feel valued. Consider the conversation to be somewhat of a performance review where the positives are discussed first followed by concerns. Be clear in stating why you are concerned.

Be aware that your employee may not realise the impact their mental state is having on their work, feel as though their personal issues are not your concern, or alternatively they may think that everything is just fine. Be prepared to be dismissed. But if your employee is willing to open up, be supportive.

Consider asking open ended questions where the employee is able to steer the conversation in a direction they are comfortable. Ensure that you listen openly and provide encouragement. Don’t push for information which is outside of the scope of work related issues – it is not your business.

4.       Act!
It is important that you focus on solutions, not problems, and how you can help the employee in a business sense – remember that you’re not in their shoes, even if you think you have been before. Ensure that you document everything being said and consider ways of temporarily altering their job role and responsibilities to reduce pressure and workload. Offer your collected mental health resources and details about what’s included in the pack.

5.       Schedule a follow-up meeting
Don’t forget that you have a duty of care to ensure your employees are happy at work. Once the employee has had some time to digest the conversation, potentially seek help and you’ve altered their work responsibilities, check back in. If the employee’s mental state has not improved, or gotten worse, consider offering them the support of an Employee Assistance Program. Again consider their workload and responsibilities, and refer them to free phone and online resources, as well as community service providers such as doctors, psychologists and counsellors. And once again, after some time, repeat the process.

 

Talking to employees about mental health may seem a daunting process, but it’s the first step in taking positive strides to ensuring happy, healthy and efficient employees. And when you make mental health and wellbeing a priority in your workplace, your employees will thank you for it.

For further reading and free mental health resources, see:
Black Dog Institute: Workplace Mental Health Toolkit
Beyond Blue: Workplace Mental Health
Headspace
Lifeline – Phone: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue – Phone: 1300 22 4636

Medicals vs. Fitness for Work Assessments (F4W©) and why they’re important for your business

“…fitting a square peg into a round hole is not only difficult, but damages either the peg or the hole” (Randolph, 2000).

Doctor provided ‘generic’ medical screens are common and relatively cheap. They usually include an assessment of hearing, eyesight, blood pressure, and a medical questionnaire, typically sourced from voluntary disclosure. But the issue with a ‘generic’ medical assessment is that they have the potential to miss important information, rule someone out unnecessarily, rule someone in who shouldn’t be, or open employers up to possible discrimination.

 

This is why ‘generic’ is dangerous and can actually be quite costly in the end. If a role does not require a specific function, let’s say overhead lifting, and you rule a good candidate out because they cannot lift their arm over their head, then not only have you missed out on a good candidate, but you may have exposed yourself to discrimination.

 

Likewise, what if you hired someone to do a physical role and they were carrying a back injury they did not disclose to the doctor, or ‘played it down’. They then aggravate their injury at your workplace, put in a valid workers compensation claim and have to stop work. This would be a disastrous outcome for both you and the employee, who is now injured and unable to work.

 

So how does a good Fitness for Work Assessment differ?

 

A good F4W© considers the actual physical and cognitive demands of the role and directly assesses a candidate’s ability to perform those tasks safely.

 

A good F4W© will be based on a task analysis. This is not a job description – which outlines things such as responsibilities, accountabilities or employment conditions, but rather a detailed account of the movements (like bending, kneeling, lifting), frequency of these (e.g. once/day vs 20/day), and load/force (e.g. push 25kg at waist level) required for the role. For example, the physical work an office worker does is entirely different to that of a plant operator – does it make sense for them to do the same test?

 

A good F4W© will be conducted by a trained allied health professional, such as an Occupational Therapist, Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist with experience in preventing and managing workplace injuries. These professionals understand the impact of injuries on work tasks, are trained to detect muscle weakness, poor techniques, signs of fatigue and strain and identify at-risk persons. Their recommendation is based on evidence-based clinical judgement. They can also offer reasonable and practical suggestions to allow you to engage someone with only moderate risk, such as aids/equipment or manual handling training or job modification.

 

A good F4W© will protect against discrimination and invasion of privacy. Asking questions or assessing things not related to the role can expose an employer to discrimination if you rule that person out based on those answers. Knowing the right questions to ask is crucial. For example, asking whether someone has had a previous workers compensation claim is fraught with danger – and does it matter anyway? What is more important is whether they can perform the role safely. Likewise, too many personal questions without valid reason can be an invasion of someone’s privacy and simply not relevant.

 

And long-term, a good F4W© assessment provides a baseline for determining how employees are affected by the work they do in your business. For example, an employer can assess the validity of an employee claiming industrial deafness, when in fact, they had diminished hearing prior to commencing employment.

 

Evidence shows that employees who are not tested for fitness for work have:

By completing an appropriate F4W© assessments, businesses can help reduce accidents, provide a safer workplace, reduce absenteeism and decrease workers compensation premiums and claims costs.

 

So, whilst it may seem tempting to take the cheap option, employers should consider whether this really will give you the protection and outcome you need. Or will it cost you much more in the end if you get it wrong?

 

Find out more about Fitness for Work services available.

Why leadership and culture is imperative to safety

Do a couple of Google searches around risk taking in the Australian workforce and it’s easy to see that not everyone has a positive attitude towards safety and injury management. Many employees, particularly in larger businesses, tend to adopt a rule breaking approach if it’s likely to get a job done faster. So how can we as Leaders alter employee perception and, when it’s not always a simple task, should we?

 

Absolutely we should!

The latest figures show that work-related injury and disease cost the Australian economy $61.8 billion, with 77% of that worn by employers. So really, we’re mad if we don’t!

 

As Leaders it is up to us to provide the foundation for a strong culture of safety for our employees. We should enforce a top-down approach, adopting a proactive leadership style and promote a positive attitude towards safety in the workplace.

 

So how do we achieve this? Here are 8 simple steps to get you started that will make an immediate difference to your safety culture:

 

  • Commit to being risk adverse – write it into your company values if you need to but ensure that you are committing fully if you really want to be a positive safety leader
  • Walk the talk – lead by example, show your employees how to be safe, raise topics for discussion, reward safety initiatives and ideas and never break the rules!
  • Keep informed and educated on safety – talk to people, read, hire an expert… do whatever you can to ensure you are well informed around safety relating to your specific industry
  • Ensure you have a policy in place – most businesses already do, but do some benchmarking to ensure it’s up to standard
  • Communicate the policy from the top down – make sure your employees understand that their safety at work is paramount and the policy is  enforced
  • Listen to your employees – ensure they are given regular opportunities to voice their concerns and can do so in an environment and with someone they are comfortable with
  • Act on issues – what’s the point in being risk adverse if you’re not going to act on the issues, right?
  • Update employees – when an employee has had the confidence to voice a concern, ensure that you keep them updated regularly on any outcomes

So at this point, you’re either ready to start making some positive changes, or you’re waiting for the punch line. Well, here it is… remember that figure? $61.8 billion!

 

You can’t afford not to make some changes. Throw the rule-breaking approach out the window and refuse to contribute to the statistics! You might just be surprised too because there’s no doubt you’ll also profit from the additional benefits of a strong safety culture: happier employees, higher productivity, positive business relationships, less absenteeism and reduced claims costs.

Top 5 Mistakes Employers make with Drug & Alcohol Testing in the workplace

Navigating safe workplaces

“For a workplace drug & alcohol testing program to be successful it must be clear, detailed, fair, enforceable, consistent in its application and focus on education and support.”

Many employers develop a drug and alcohol testing program with the right intentions – they want to keep people:

  • safe at work,
  • prevent dangerous and costly workplace accidents
  • maintain a good brand reputation in their market.

However, despite their good intentions, most will fail dismally!


We asked our team of workplace drug testing experts what they see as the top 5 common mistakes in drug & alcohol policies and procedures.

Here’s what they said:

  • The half-baked approach
  • Unclear procedures
  • The “catch & sack” approach
  • Inconsistency in the application of the procedure
  • Lack of training

For  more information see Work Options  “LightHouse Keeper – Navigating Safe Workplaces” Article

Work Options team attended the People’s Awards 2018 for the Civil Contractors Federation (NSW)

On Friday night the Work Options team attended the People’s Awards for the Civil Contractors Federation (NSW) at Doltone House, Pyrmont.
As silver sponsors and long time providers of workplace drug testing, pre-employment fitness for work, workplace rehabilitation and employee counselling for the industry, we were delighted to see several of our customers both nominated and winning some amazing awards.
BIG congratulations to our customers for the following wins:

  • Haslin Constructions (Chris Hammond) – Project Manager <$2m
  • Abergeldie (Isabel Nobre) – Project Manager >$2m
  • Abergeldie (Carlos Lopez) – Site Supervisor of the Year
  • AWJ Civil (Martin O’Connell) – President’s Award
A highlight of the night was meeting the Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Michael McCormack MP, Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, and his lovely wife Catherine.
Managing Director, Karen Castledine (left); Snr Injury Management Specialist, Diana Hurst & Regional Manager, Ben Humphreys
The team with Gladys Wood, General Manager, Haslin
Managing Employee Mental Health
Managing Employee Mental Health – ​Why It’s Good Business

Are employers responsible for the mental well-being of employees?

At some stage in their life most employees will experience some sort of personal difficulty, emotional trauma or mental health issue.

Whilst the issue may or may not be a direct result of their employment, it can have a significant impact on the employee’s ability to perform their job or, in fact, even stay in their job.

It can also affect other workers around them and impact the business in terms of decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, reduced presenteeism, loss of a skilled and valued employee, and increased recruitment costs.

For  more information see Work Options  “LightHouse Keeper – Navigating Safe Workplaces” Managing Employee Mental Health
Work Options have moved

Our new offices will allow us to better service our customers with much more room for the injury management, return to work and employment drug testing teams to work their wonders! The team are feeling very inspired with their new workstations, kitchen and breakout room, great natural light and views over North Sydney.

From our new digs we will continue to provide on-site & off-site drug testing for work, pre-employment fitness testing, EAP and workplace rehabilitation under icare workers insurance scheme, comcare and the motor accidents scheme.

Consequences of an unclear Drug & Alcohol policy

What Can Happen if your Drug & Alcohol Testing Policy is Unclear & too General – A Case Study

 

Imagine this…

its the evening of Melbourne Cup day, night shift has commenced and an employee reports to you that another employee has passed out asleep in a truck at work, and she smells of alcohol.

To make matters worse you discover that as a result of this, approximately 50 chickens have died. Your drug and alcohol policy says you have a ‘zero tolerance for alcohol’.

 

What would you do…?

 

For  more information see Work Options  “LightHouse Keeper – Navigating Safe Workplaces” Article

Drug & Alcohol Policy -Sept 2018

Work Options team at Civil Contractors Federation (NSW) Earth Awards

On Friday night, 8th June, the Work Options team attended the Civil Contractors Federation (NSW) Earth Awards at the Hyatt Regency, Darling Harbour.

Representing Work Options was:

  • Karen Castledine, Managing Director;
  • Diana Hurst, Snr Injury Management Specialist;
  • Kaitlan Irvine, Workplace Drug & Alcohol Testing Coordinator;
  • Dane Sullivan, Snr Rehabilitation Counsellor;
  • Chris Kroukamp, Occupational Therapist;
  • Matthew Mooney, Regional Manager Northern NSW.

A fun night was had by all with plenty of laughter, dancing and great company!

Congratulations to the category winners:

  • Category 1 (project value up to $2m): Piling & Civil Australia for Foundation Replacement, Burrinjuck Towers 125 and 126.
  • Category 2 (project value $2m to $5m): Antoun Civil Engineering & Sutherland Shire Council for Design and Construction of Woolooware Bay Shared Pathway – Stage 6 Taren Point
  • Category 3 (project value $5m to $10m): Diona for Design and Construction of Water and Sewer Infrastructure – Canterbury Town Centre
  • Category 4 (project value $10m to $30m): Rob Carr for Green Square Stormwater Drain Project
  • Category 5 (project value $30m to $75m): Seymour Whyte Constructions for Wyong Road and Pacific Highway Upgrade at Tuggerah

As silver sponsors and long time providers of workplace drug testing, pre-employment fitness for work, workplace rehabilitation and employee counselling for the industry, we were delighted to see several of our customers both nominated and winning some amazing awards for some amazing projects.

the winner – Darrell Wilson

Work Options was proud to be sponsor of the inaugural Safety Award for the NSW Waste Contractors & Recyclers Association awards last Friday night. We were incredibly impressed with the quality of finalists and, of course, the winner – Darrell Wilson. Darrell was a humble, yet very deserving winner.

See what the judges said below:

“Darrell was awarded for his response at high speed, in traffic on the M5, where he averted a potentially catastrophic accident which could have resulted in many deaths. Darrell was travelling on the M5 when a school bus carrying 20 children suddenly pulled out in front of him. His quick thinking response to stop the vehicle and turn the truck towards the concrete wall averted the collision. Darrell’s intention was to avoid the bus at all costs, even at his own well-being. Darrell’s driver professionalism & attention to detail, ensured that his response in this emergency situation was quick, appropriate & very highly skilled. In essence, Darrell put into practice what all heavy vehicle drivers should be doing and that is to be alert & attentive at all times.”

Work Options’ Consultant Wins Award for Outstanding RTW Achievement!



On Thursday, 2nd November the NSW Australian Rehabilitation Providers Association announced the winners of the inaugural ARPA NSW Excellence in Workplace Rehabilitation Awards.

We are very pleased to announce that Diana won the award for Outstanding Return to Work Achievement! This is a very well deserved win for Di. The case nominated had a number of complexities which required not only very strong occupational therapy and case management skills, but strong communication and a lot of ‘outside the box’ strategies to assist the worker achieve a full and sustainable RTW.

Diana automatically goes into the National Awards to be held Friday 17th November in Canberra.

We wish her all the best at the nationals!

Wellness at Work, Coffs Harbour

On Wednesday, 13th September, Work Options was pleased to be part of the ‘Wellness at Work’ event run by the Coffs Coast Safety Network.
The event was held in beautiful Coffs Harbour and attended by a strong turnout of employers interested in the health and well being of their people.
There were some really interesting talks, such as Jim Kelly, Director of Health & Return to Work, SafeWork NSW, who talked about putting the ‘H’ back into WHS. Another inspiring speaker was Becky Cole from local radio station, CHYFM, who spoke on creating a health, productive and inclusive workplace.
As exhibitors at the event it was wonderful to talk to so many local employers who genuinely wanted to improve their organisational well being. Our hats off to them!”

Customer Service Award

Work Options wins 99.33% for customer service in the 2017 Australian Achievers Awards! Well done to our wonderful, hard-working team.

Work Options Relocate Coffs Harbour Office

Work Options Coffs Harbour moves to new premises – near Coffs Jetty.

Suite 5, 4/30 Orlando Street, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450

Ph: 02 6651 5516

Fax: 02 9957 1311

Employers Mutual announcement

Work Options congratulates Employers Mutual on their selection as the sole Agent for NSW Workers Insurance from 2018 following a tender process with icare.

icare announced major changes to NSW Workers Insurance

icare major changes announced to NSW Workers Insurance. At 31 Dec 2017 CGU & QBE will cease as icare Agents for NSW Workers Insurance and at 31 Dec 2018 GIO & Allianz will cease. All new claims and policies will only be managed by EML from 1 Jan 2018 with existing claims being transitioned to and managed by Allianz and GIO until end 2018.

New simpler Phone Words

Work Options introduces new phone words

1300TEST4DRUGS

making it easier for our customers to request workplace drug testing.

Give us a call to organise your  Workplace Drug Testing

1300TEST4DRUGS (1300 837 843)