As people start making their returns to workplaces, it is important to remember the language that everyone needs proficiency in: workplace safety.
WorkSafe Victoria recently launched its campaign ‘Workplace Safety is our Common Language’ to push understanding around occupational health and safety to those in culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) community in Victoria. The government body also hosted a panel with community leaders who discussed and demystified issues on what workplace safety is and the rights and responsibilities surrounding it. Here are the key take-aways you should be aware of.
1. Employers need to know: Deliver OHS messages in preferred languages
Making workplace safety a common language means all employees must understand safety messages in their workplaces for their physical and mental wellbeing, this includes employees from CALD backgrounds. To ensure this, it is important for employers to recognise the value of translated resources and for employees to receive information regarding their health and safety in a way that they can understand.
“Workers who are still learning English may not have the same understanding of health and safety risks as their co-workers if these risks are only communicated in English,”
“That is why employers must take the time to ensure every worker is protected from risks to their health and safety – no matter what their preferred language is.” A WorkSafe spokesperson said.
2. Employers need to know: Don’t be fearful of WorkSafe
Small businesses with employers who may be new to Victoria can sometimes be unaware of their obligations toward employees. Worksafe inspectors, who enforce these obligations and can enter workplaces during operating hours can make employers uneasy, but they are there to help.
OHS Inspector at WorkSafe Victoria, Abir Elamin, said that employers should not fear inspectors coming into their workplace as their purpose is not to shut businesses down but to support employers and employees by calling out hazards and providing advice. Often inspectors will issue an improvement notice to a hazard they may see in the workplace and come back to see if it has been fixed, this ensures employers take account and employees are safe.
Businesses should also encourage employees to raise health and safety issues as this normalises discussions around safety and also prevents a major incident from occurring or for inspectors to be called in.
3. Employees need to know: The inside counts too
Workplace safety is not limited to physical safety and hazards are not limited to bad falls, electric shocks or broken bones. Mental and psychosocial safety also encompasses workplace safety and can include racial targeting, microaggressions and casual racialised jokes.
Community/Youth Leader Monica Forson who works at the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission said that mental health is just as important as physical health and that they should not have to experience bullying or discrimination.
CALD youth, who may be more likely to identify and call out discrimination should be utilised in their communities to help others come forward.
“I’ve found young people tend to be more open with calling out bad behaviour, whilst others tend to put up with discriminatory practices or unfair treatment,”
“In Victoria, there are laws to protect people from unfair behaviour and the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission helps people who have been treated unfairly. Individuals can contact the Commission directly who can assist in their preferred language. Young people can also act as a support person for older people if they want to report an issue or incident,” Ms Forson said.
4. Employees need to know: Don’t be the sacrificial lamb
An issue that migrant workers may face in particular is being hesitant to report health and safety breaches in the workplace out of fear of losing their jobs and being unable to provide for their families in Australia or overseas. However, employees need to recognise their right to a safe workplace and hold businesses to account.
“Generally, for people who have a familial obligation, both in Australia and in their home country, their focus is centred around working for the family, not their individual concerns or safety,”
“In reporting safety issues, we’re not just protecting our own health and safety but we’re also helping to prevent workplace harm from occurring to others. And as more employers are held to account, more workplaces will understand the importance and prioritise safety in their own business.” Ms Forson said.
WorkSafe has safety advice in 19 different languages available online to engage with multicultural Victoria with Tagalog translated materials available here.