World Day for Health and Safety at Work: promoting workplace safety for people with disability

26 April 2023

Image: a man working in a factory while wearing a safety helmet and eyewear.

World Day for Health and Safety at Work on April 28 highlights the importance of ensuring safe and healthy work environments for all individuals, including those with disability.

The day serves as a reminder that workplace safety is not only a legal and ethical responsibility of employers, but it is also essential for the well-being of all employees.

Individuals with disability may require specific accommodations in the workplace to perform their duties effectively, and ensuring their safety is crucial to their success.

The importance of workplace health and safety

JobAccess General Manager Daniel Valiente-Riedl says health and safety at work should be a priority for employers, especially when thinking about recruiting, or preparing to onboard, someone living with disability.

“Individuals with disability may require specific adjustments to do their job safely. Ensuring a safe and healthy work environment can help prevent injuries, reduce the risk of accidents, and promote overall well-being for all employees, including those with disability,” he said.

“Additionally, providing reasonable adjustments, such as modifying workstations or schedules, is a legal requirement for employers. By prioritising health and safety at work, employers can create a more inclusive and supportive environment that promotes retention, productivity and overall success for all employees.”

Creating a safe and inclusive workplace

Adjustments may be necessary to ensure safety for employees with disability. These can include modifying work processes and equipment or adjusting work schedules.

It's also critical to provide safety information to employees with disability in formats that are accessible to them, such as screen-reading software, larger fonts, audio recordings and Braille.

Ensuring that all employees are included in workers' compensation insurance coverage is vital. In the case of a workplace injury, an organisation must aid the injured employee in safely returning to work. When an employee returns to work after being injured, it's crucial to retrain them on all procedures, including safety and evacuation protocols.

General duty of care vs disability-specific solutions

Employers have a general duty of care for the health and safety of their employees. This means employers are responsible for taking reasonable steps to prevent harm to their employees by providing a safe and healthy work environment.

Businesses and self-employed people with disability can apply for funding workplace adjustments through the Australian Government’s Employment Assistance Fund (EAF). The EAF can provide financial support for modifications to improve the workplace safety of employees with disability.

However, it is important to remember that funding through the EAF is to help identify disability-specific solutions in the workplace and not to conduct an ergonomic assessment. All employees would benefit from an ergonomic assessment, and it is the employer’s duty of care to ensure an ergonomic setup.

Employers are responsible for providing staff with the right tools to do their job, including desks, chairs, phones and computers. Research makes it clear how everyone benefits from altering their posture throughout the day, which makes this an ergonomic issue and not necessarily a disability-specific one.

JobAccess advice and support

JobAccess can provide employers with advice, support, and resources to ensure employees with disability are safe and comfortable in the workplace. Employers can contact JobAccess at 1800 464 800 for a confidential discussion on workplace health and safety.

The JobAccess Employer Toolkit is a practical, free online resource that provides access to a wealth of information and practical advice on fulfilling legal obligations as an employer and creating a safe and inclusive work environment for employees with disability.

Large employers can benefit from a free, 12-month partnership with JobAccess’ National Disability Recruitment Coordinator (NDRC). The NDRC can help larger employers acquire the skills and talents of people with disability and develop workplace policies and practices, including health and safety practices, to support people with disability.

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