Compliance with workplace health & safety regulations is vital for manufacturing businesses, but the administrative obligations require significant time and effort. Technological solutions such as automated software systems can help to lighten the burden. By Gideon Joseph.

The need for stringent workplace health & safety (WHS) compliance in the manufacturing sector is well justified. Manufacturing has one of the highest incidence of Australian workplace-related accidents, injuries and fatalities, accounting for 9% of all worker fatalities in 2018.

Ensuring a manufacturing business is fully compliant with WHS regulations is therefore a hugely important commitment. Non-compliance carries huge financial and personal risk for employers and employees respectively. But many manufacturing employers find themselves burdened with the heavy administration of WHS compliance, and struggle to efficiently manage it.

The current public health crisis has made occupational health & safety (OHS) compliance even more important. Not only must manufacturers deal with minimising risk associated with the day-to-day operations of a manufacturing business; they must also take up proactive risk management strategies to minimise the potential for COVID-19 transmission in their workplace. After all, manufacturers can’t work from home.

When it comes to dealing with the workload of WHS compliance, manufacturing businesses should ask themselves whether they could be working smarter, not harder, to manage this. The answer is yes they could – by using software designed to drive efficiencies in managing WHS compliance. A report by the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC) published in April found that the manufacturers in Australia who are globally competitive are those who make smarter use of technology.

By using software like Kronos to manage WHS risk, manufacturing companies can manage, record, and report on all aspects of an organisation’s health & safety obligations and requirements, using one system that accounts for all the nuances and complexities of workplace safety.

But the ways in which manufacturing companies are using software to manage WHS compliance aren’t just limited to reporting and recording. With Kronos, once burdensome tasks such as rostering become automated, with rosters generated in such a way that mitigates fatigue risk by ensuring employees aren’t working too many consecutive shifts in a row.

This feature also helps to prevent employees developing repetitive strain injuries, since the system can recognise when an employee is at risk of working consecutive shifts involving certain manual tasks. Concerns about employees being over-exposed to noise can also be addressed through Kronos’ automated rostering; the system will alert the user when employees are frequently working shifts with heavy noise exposure.

One of the biggest hazards in manufacturing WHS is operating high-risk machinery. Employers must stay on top of which employees hold the correct license for operating certain pieces of machinery – but keeping up to date with this can be challenging and resource-intensive.

Using software that tracks this information allows safety coordinators to stay updated on which employees are qualified and adequately trained to complete certain tasks or use certain pieces of equipment, and notifies the software user immediately when they are not. The technology is also capable of flagging up when an employee’s licence to use a piece of equipment is due to expire, prompting safety co-ordinators to have these renewed. Better still, not only will the system flag up when an employee’s licence will expire, it will also enforce compliance by prohibiting the scheduler from rostering a person to a shift where use of that piece of equipment is required.

Some manufacturers who have implemented Kronos actually integrate the application into the machinery itself, to track time spent on pieces of equipment. This passes information to the central system, streamlining the data gathering rather than relying on a clock-on/clock-off system.

It’s important to note that the system can not only be used to prevent unsafe work from happening, but also as a training tool that can help with the onboarding process. Employees can use the software to access training materials, as well as to educate themselves on the correct health and safety practices. The system can be configured to an individual company’s needs, with the availability to add any training modules.

Using automated systems such as Kronos will free up time in many ways. Chiefly, it negates the need for manual paperwork by allowing for automation and centralised data collection, while also allowing businesses to identify emerging safety hazards before they become critical.

This proactive and efficient approach to managing WHS in a manufacturing context allows manufacturers to be more productive, while also reducing labour costs and the potential for human error. This freeing up of time and resources allows manufacturing employers to address other threats posed to the industry, such as low tariffs and cost competitors overseas.

Gideon Joseph is the Manufacturing, Services and Distribution Practice Manager for Kronos – Australia, New Zealand & South-East Asia