Human resource management
Human resource management is a concept that aims at improving the workplace conditions and establishing better relations between employees and employers in order to optimise the performance levels of the employees. Human resource management uses various functions, such as training and development, career development, performance management, recruitment and selection, etc. to achieve its objectives. One of the key aspects of human resource management is to ensure a safe working environment for the employees so that they can work in a healthy and safe workplace environment and perform their duties and responsibilities to the best of their abilities. Ensuring safety at workplace is not just an approach that helps business organisations in improving employer employee relations but is also a legal obligation towards the employees. An employee getting injured or losing life at workplace due to lack of safety measures or negligence ca invite a lot legal trouble and market defamation for a company (Jane Mullena, 2017). Thus, ensuring a safe workplace environment and making the employees follow safety guidelines is an important part of human resource management.
Bruno Smallgoods is an Australian based company that was founded in 1920. The company was founded by a family of butchers and farmers who had a vision of providing the Australian public with the finest quality meat that was cured using traditional Italian recipes. As of 2017, Brunos have become a major supplier of Smallgoods in the Australian market and offer a wide range of products, such as Italian salami, ham, bacon and Smallgoods. The Bruno family has been successful in achieving their vision and have a number of family owned facilities in Bundoora, and Victoria and has a workforce of over 250 employees. The company has a very basic organisational structure where the CEO reports to the Board of Directors, which is made up of members from the Bruno Family. All departments in the company have a manager and all production departments have supervisors who are responsible for the management of production line workers.
In one of the health and safety investigations, the auditor discovered that the workplace was lacking safety precautions and the employees too had a poor attitude towards safety. During the survey, the auditor came across a number of instances where the employees reached the meat mincers to clear blockages while the mincers were operating. The employees had not been using their safety equipment while most of the safety barriers on the machines were removed to speed up the production proses. After the investigation, the auditor advices the management of the company to lay a greater focus on the development of a safety culture within the organisation. The CEO of the company has become concerned about the safety conditions of the workplace because they have already invested a lot of money in fostering a safe working environment but are still facing a risk where someone might get seriously injured or would die on the factory floor. As a result, the CEO of the company has hired a professional in workplace safety so that they can foster a safer work environment.
1.Legal responsibilities of employers to ensure workplace safety
In the present day business world, the customers as well as the employees expect their companies to be more ethical in the way that they treat their employees and work towards the safety of the environment. Another important part of a company’s corporate social responsibility is to ensure a healthy and safe working environment for the employees. The employees have a legal right to work in a safe and healthy environment and is also a legal binding on the employers (Hancock, 2015).
It is a legal binding on the employers to ensure a safe working environment for the employees and other people who are stakeholders in their business, which means that it becomes an employer’s legal obligations to ensure that no harm, injury or health issue is caused to the employees while they are at the workplace. Under the law, the employers are required to provide safety precautions to the employees and educate them to undertake and follow all the safety precautions and measures that are associated with workplace tools, equipment or machinery. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act of 1974, it is is duty of the employers to:
- Ensure and provide safe system of work
- Ensure and provide a safe area for working
- Provide safe equipment, plant and machinery to operate
- Carrying out risk assessments at regular basis and taking necessary steps to deal with employee health and safety risks
- Educate workers by providing the workers with instructions, training and supervision about the safety risks associated with the workplace, machines, tools, equipment, raw materials, etc.
- Employ a person who looks after the health and safety of employees
- Provide facilities for staff welfare in the workplace, etc. (Anon., n.d.)
Thus, ensuring safety in the workplace is a legal obligation for the employers towards their staff and an employer’s failure to provide a safe working place to the employees can invite legal troubles in the long run.
During the commencement of industries, workplace safety was not given much importance by the employers as they had a higher tendency to neglect it in order to increase profitability. Over the past few years, the threat to human resources have increased exponentially because of natural as well as mad made disasters (Andrea H. Okun, 2016) (Sidney W.A. Dekker, 2016) (Deirdre McCaughey, 2014). According to a report prepared by the bureau of labour statistics (BLS) in 2012, almost three million non-fatal injuries were reported by private employers during 2011. Human resources working in business organisations are constantly facing risks to their health and safety and some have already become victims to industrial disasters, such as the Chernobyl disaster, Upper-Branch mine, Davis-Besse, etc. (Cole, et al., 2013)
Safety culture, in simple words, can be defined as a set of attitudes, values, beliefs and perception that a workforce possesses in relation to a safe environment at the workplace. Safety culture forms an important part of an organisation’s culture and is also defined by saying ‘the way in which things are done.’
The term safety culture was used for the first time in the report prepared after the Chernobyl incident. The report was aimed at discussing the concept so that an explanation for the organisational errors and operator violations that resulted into the incident could be given (K.Muthuyadav, et al., 2015). Zohar (1980) used the term safety climate in his empirical investigation that was aimed at studying the attitudes of Israeli manufacturing employees and employers towards safety. He defined safety climate as a moral perception that the employees share about their work environment.
3.Role of a safety culture in improving safety behaviours
The involvement of legislation in ensuring the interests and wellbeing of the employees make it a legal obligation for the employers to avoid those workplace practices that value production over employee safety. The safety culture in an organisation is helpful in representing the share beliefs, attitudes, norms and work practices that the employees and the employers have towards the health and safety of human resources in the workplace. All employees and employers play an important role in ensuring safety and health for each other and so does a safety culture. The role of a safety culture in improving the behaviour of the employees towards a healthy and a safe working environment is discussed below:
- A safety culture is itself a framework that helps organisation in starting a movement towards safety in the workplace. Using a safety culture, organisations are able to create a goal, write it down, share it with the workforce and then measure the achievements after implementation.
- An organisation working to propagate a safety culture in the workplace is able to leave a long lasting impression on the employees. The employees start to understand that health and safety is important because their employers are attaching some value to it.
- When an organisation is able to establish a safety culture in its workplaces, it becomes obvious that during competing priorities, safety and health of the stakeholders will always be the top most priority. Due to the presence of a safety culture, employees as well as employers attach a high value to safety as compared to productivity or profitability (Hofmann, et al., 2017).
- A safety culture can help business organisations not only in fostering a workplace environment that is concerned about the health and safety of all but also helps in identifying risk areas and opportunities for improvement in the near future. Such an approach can help business organisations in dealing with risks before they occur and cause a serious injury or problem to someone.
- A safety culture can also help a business organisation in improving its facility wide communication on health and safety topics. Communication related to health and safety topics can further help in increasing the awareness about safety and health topics amongst the employees and helps them in dealing with such risks (Middlesworth, n.d.).
- A safety culture can help business organisation in fostering a unified vision towards health and safety in the workplace, which helps in improving the attitude of the employees towards health and safety. It also helps in achieving a condition where all employees working in a company are involved in the drive towards safety and play an important role in ensuring workplace safety for themselves and for the others. Further, a greater participation from the employees is always helpful in achieving better results and improvements.
- A safety culture can also help in establishing better relations between employees and employers. When employees get a feeling that their employers are concerned about their safety and well-being, they become more committed towards their employers and start to demonstrate a greater involvement in the safety practices of the workplace.
- A safety culture also ensures that the employees are able to report safety or health related issues openly to their seniors because they feel that safety and health of the employees is equally important to the employers as is performance, productivity and profitability.
- With the help of a safety culture in the workplace, the employers can ensure a greater commitment and a positive attitude from the employees towards safety and health related practices by attaching rewards and recognition in the safety culture.
- A safety culture can help in improving the attitude of the employees towards safety because the value that the employers attach to employee health and safety makes it obvious that any person or employee who tries to avoid safety precautions or practices will have to face serious consequences, which can also result into dismissals if the behaviour of an employee can mean serious injury to himself or herself or to someone else (Middlesworth, n.d.).
5.Steps to improve safety culture in Bruno Smallgoods
It’s important for business organisations to foster a positive safety culture in the workplace because negligence of employees in taking appropriate safety and health precautions can cause legal troubles for the employers. The safety conditions prevailing in Bruno Smallgoods calls upon some serious changes to be introduced in the workplace before someone gets seriously hurt or dies because of inability to adhere to safety precautions. Some steps that can help the management at Bruno Smallgoods to improve the safety culture in the workplace are given below:
First of all, the company needs to introduce some serious changes in the workplace safety culture. The company needs to carefully analyse its present position and discover the gap that exists between its present position and where it wants to see itself in the near future. The company needs to assess the areas where the workplace fails to adhere to safety precautions and establish a sense of urgency within the workplace. By establishing a sense of urgency in the workplace, it would be possible to bring it into the awareness of the employees that there is something wrong and there are certain changes required to be introduced that can help in improving the workplace conditions. The management will have to identify change agents from within the organisation that would be helpful in facilitating the change and will also have to analyse different operations and work practices where there is a lack of safety. Once the management is able to identify all those areas where a change is required, it can then select an appropriate change management tool, such as Kurt Lewin’s 3 step model, Kotter’s change management model, etc. and can start implementing the designed changes in the workplace.
Secondly, it is important for business organisations to include safety and health related tests in their recruitment and selection procedure. Business organisations, like Bruno Smallgoods, which are operating in a high risk environment that can cause injuries or fatalities to the workers because of usage of heavy tools, machinery or equipment should make it a point that they include safety and health related terms right from the starting of their recruitment and selection procedure. Business organisations should make it a point that they include questions about workplace health and safety in their recruitment test so that they can test the knowledge of the employees related to safety measure and precautions and can also bring it in the notice of the candidates that workplace safety is of utmost importance to the employer. The management can involve case studies and questions that can help in testing the response of the candidates related to workplace safety and risk and should chose only those candidates who have sufficient knowledge about the different safety measures that should be taken while working in a workplace and while using tools, machinery and other risk oriented equipment. This would allow the company in fostering a better safety culture within the organisation because the employees at each level of the organisation will already be aware about the importance of workplace health and safety (Barbera, 2014).
Thirdly, the management at Bruno Smallgoods can also arrange for training and development programs that can help the existing employees in learning new skills and techniques that would help them in becoming more aware about the importance of workplace safety and how to ensure safety while working in a risk oriented environment. Health and safety risks increase exponentially when employees have to work with heavy machinery (cutting machines, cranes, rollers), chemicals (acids, cyanides, etc.), construction material, etc. and the risks become even greater when the employees using these machines are not fully trained to use them. An organisation that is experiencing high safety risks in its workplace should analyse the root causes of the risks and should try to bring down these safety issues by training and developing their employees so that they have a better understanding about the machines and can use them by taking all the necessary safety precautions. Using training and development programs, the management at Bruno Smallgoods will also be able to ensure that its employees receive training that can make them more competitive in preforming their tasks while also adhering to all the safety precautions that they should be following in the workplace. By implementing training and development programs that will be aimed at increasing the knowledge of the employees in terms of workplace safety, the management will be able to foster a positive safety culture because the employees will themselves start feeling the importance of following safety guidelines for their own sake and for the sake of the employer as well
Fourthly, performance management programs can also help companies like Bruno Smallgoods in fostering a positive safety culture in the workplace and improving the attitude of their employees towards workplace health and safety. The management at Bruno Smallgoods can implement a performance management system where it can include key performance indicators, such as number of safety inspections, safety issues reported, safety issues resolved, safety risks prevented, total hours spent in safety and health training programs, etc. (Parmenter, 2015). Using such key performance indicators, the management will be able to rate employees or individual departments on the basis of their ability to adhere to safety guidelines. This will not only help the company in identifying employees or departments that are dedicate towards ensuring safety of employees but also identify those employees or departments where there are higher safety risks and are not demonstrating a positive attitude towards workplace safety. A performance management program based upon safety key performance indictors will also help companies like Bruno Smallgoods in fostering a positive safety culture and also fostering a workplace environment where the employees as well as the employers are dedicated towards workplace health and safety. The management can also attach certain rewards or benefits in order to reinforce positive behaviour amongst those employees or departments that show exception performance and have worked exceptionally well in order to ensure workplace safety for themselves as well as for those people who are working around them. Such rewards and benefits will act as a motivator for the employees working in the company and will also help in improving the safety conditions in the workplace.
Last, but not the least, for the management of business organisations that operate in a risk oriented environment, it is important to post appropriate signs and warning in the workplace that can help in reminding everyone about high risk areas, equipment or machinery because even the most careful employees can sometimes forget about safety precautions while being involved in their work. Business organisations can post warning signs, such as entry prohibited areas, inflammable objects or areas, hazardous signs, safe conditions signs, information signs, mandatory or must do signs, prohibition signs or do not do signs, etc. that can not only help in making the workplace more appealing but will also ensure a positive attitude of employees towards safety. Thus, by posting sign posts at important places in the workplace, business organisations will be able to foster a positive safety culture in the organisation and increase the focus of the employees as well as of the employers towards workplace health and safety.
Bruno Smallgoods is an organisation that is operating in a high risk environment where its employees are always at a risk of getting severe injuries or even dying in extreme conditions because of heavy machinery, cutting tools, equipment, etc. The condition identified by the health and safety investigator is an alarm for the senior executives of the organisation to bring about some important chances in the workplace before an employee gets seriously injured or loses his life because of failure to adhere to safety guidelines and negligence. According to the employers, they have already invested a lot of resources in dealing with the safety issues and in trying to improve the attitude of the employees towards workplace safety but have still not been able to address the issue. The senior executive should soon identify the importance of fostering a safety culture in the workplace and should start undertaking certain measures that would help in improving the safety culture in the workplace and improving the attitude of the employees towards workplace safety and health.
Bruno Smallgoods needs to analyse its safety culture once again and should take appropriate measures to foster a new safety culture in the workplace that will help it in improving the attitude of employees towards safety practices while at work. If the situation is not carefully dealt with, the day isn’t far enough when the management will have to face lawsuits because of its inability to ensure a safe working environment for its employees. Therefore, it is important for the management to ensure safety for employees and to achieve an improvement in the safety culture, the management at Bruno Smallgoods can look into the recommendations discussed in this report and can look forward to implement them in the workplace.
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