On the job: workplace injury and assault
Deep Dive 5: What challenges do business face in risk management, workplace procedures and serious injury?
As part of our 2019 Deep Dive series, we explore risks in workplace safety. Stay tuned in the coming weeks leading up to Security 2019 for the trends affecting the different sectors.
Injury to employees, customers and bystanders in the workplace and the subsequent threat of litigation to businesses is a clear and present problem in Australia. This is especially evident when considering Australia’s alarming workers compensation statistics. The most recent Australian Workers Compensation Statistics show there were 106,260 serious claims for compensation in the period 2016-2017.
These statistics also show a particularly high number of serious claims in the retail industry – 8490 in the 12 months to 2017.
According to Safe Work Australia, 22 per cent of workers report being physically assaulted or threatened by patients or clients in 2017. Workplace violence is especially topical for the finance and banking industry in light of the recent findings by the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.
Among other misconduct, the Royal Commission revealed assault and sexual harassment within the sector. Considering these findings, it’s evident that public trust is lacking. A recent survey by researchers at Swinburne University of Technology found that 35.4 per cent of respondents believe banking and financial institutions show no leadership for the public good.
Consequently, there’s a real fear among some analysts that this customer anger could lead to an increase in assaults. “Resentment towards banks may have frustrated end clients to the point where there could be a physical risk directed at individuals and staff within banks, who could be on the receiving end of frustration from an aggrieved customer or former customer,” Lewkovitz says.
In light of this, it might be prudent for banks to rethink security strategy in the short-to-medium term.
Dr Tony Zalewski, director of Global Public Safety, a consultancy that has provided advice in more than 500 litigation cases involving workplace security incidents, says there is a growing trend for more formalised security across the different markets to protect individuals from injury and death, whether that be from accident or assault. “If there’s a good system in place, the chances of people getting hurt, whether they be staff, customers or passers-by, is less likely,” he says.
“We’re seeing the formalisation of security operations in many businesses, we’re seeing better workplace designs, better focus on risk minimisation and more staff awareness – that is, improved security cultures across organisations, and that’s a good thing,” Zalewski says.
Despite these formal security procedures, Zalewski says many businesses need to revisit their approach to risk-management that may not have changed in decades and could be out of step with current trends.
“Many organisations have reasonable systems in place that may have been good 10 years ago but they haven’t changed in that time and are not up to date with current risk trends,” Zalewski says. “Changing risks, like an increase in the use of the drug ice and a rise in mental health problems in the community need to be factored into risk management today.”
Central to how businesses can formalise their security operations is how to combine physical security measures with modern electronic security measures. Integrating key electronic technologies – such as electronic access control systems – with traditional strategies is essential to creating a holistic approach to security.
The many benefits of doing so include a reduced security threat from internal and external threats, increased protection for information systems’ infrastructure and the associated manpower and time and management benefits from having a single integrated system in place. (This topic will be discussed by a panel at the 2019 Security Exhibition & Conference.)