Franchise group workplace safety and complying with the new WHS Laws

by Chris Beasley

Smart OHS

2nd April 2012

New (OHS) workplace health and safety laws released in Qld, NSW, ACT, NT in January this year and slated for release in January 2013 for the remaining Australian states, mean changes for many organisations, but what do Franchisors and Directors (officers) of Franchise groups need to do to comply?

Quite simply, the new laws mean, now more than ever, Franchisors and Directors need to demonstrate due diligence in workplace safety across their entire franchise network.

Due diligence means undertaking everything that is reasonable to ensure the health and safety of those in the working environment, and can be achieved by putting in place a safe system of work.

Contrary to a common misconception, putting documentation such as policies and procedures and checklists in place is not demonstrating that you have created and maintain a safe system of work.

So how do franchisors put a safe system of work in place for franchisees?

Having the required documentation is a great start, but to show a safe system of work, your franchisees and you as the franchisor actually need to demonstrate that you use, review and improve the system as required and regularly.

There are two ways a Franchisor and Director can provide and maintain a safe system of work - one is hiring an OHS consultant or extra safety staff to undertake regular site visits to engage the franchisee to collect data and make records relating to workplace safety. This takes a lot of time and the commitment of hundreds of thousands of dollars if done correctly. The second and more financially viable, time efficient option is to put in place an online workplace safety system.

Such an online system should have the following features: a WHS 'plan' customised to the franchise group working environment, automatic email reminders to engage the franchisee to undertake key tasks, industry specific workplace health and safety procedures manuals that may be reviewed and updated, internal (audit) review forms, hazardous substances registers, contractor managers and more.

An online WHS system should save time, be easy to implement and roll out and should not require too much training for the franchisee and head office to be able to use. Ideally, as a Franchise group, you'd want a system that engaged your franchisees each week with a new task so they can stay on top of compliance.

More importantly, having an online workplace safety system should save money and reputation. Consider what the publicity of an incident and resulting fine would cost your organisation in reputation, and couple that with an increase in penalties across the board of up to $3 million for the company and up to $600,000 and five years prison for the Directors.

Having a workplace safety system that actually works should be high on the list of priorities for all franchise groups.

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