How can good job design make your company safer?

What is good work design?

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The way we think about health safety and wellbeing is changing as employers and their workers begin to realise that it's not just about compliance and paperwork, but involves keeping people happy and engaged with what they do every day of the week.

There are many different schools of thought behind what organisations can do to improve employee wellbeing. In many cases, this has led businesses to focus more on the culture and behaviours associated with a positive work environment. Instead of leading with compliance concerns, creating an environment where people want to help each other stay safe means that staying compliant will follow. 

The concept of good work design is one that is increasingly focussing on employee mindsets and how a more engaged workforce performs better and more safely. At its core, job design is mostly about reducing mechanical and repetitive behaviours where possible by promoting positive mental engagement with the task at hand. 

What does good job design entail?

Safe Work Australia investigated what it means for organisations to promote good job design with a set of cross-industry guidelines. Effective job design ensures better results for both businesses and their employees, as it means people are happier, more productive and engaged with the work they're doing. 

The organisation stated that its guidelines are especially important for businesses looking to provide a duty of care with respect to WHS legislation, as they make the compliance guidelines people-centric. Safe Work Australia also noted that there are three main dimension of good work design, all of which contribute to a better performing operation. 

The first is the actual nature of the work itself, whereby managers need to review the actual tasks people are asked to complete with respect to its various demands, time pressures and complexity. It's only by creating this detailed audit of workers' various tasks that managers then begin to understand whether they're adhering to good work design principles or not. 

Then, these tasks need to be contextualised within a working environment that allows for them to be completed safely and productively. This includes anything from the materials people need to do their job to the wider buildings and vehicles in which they take place. 

Finally, it's important for managers to understand the various needs of their employees when they come to do these tasks. This includes mental and emotional needs, as well as the physical impacts and conditions of the roles. 

How does poor job design affect workplaces?

If work isn't designed and planned in a way that encourages engagement, safety and performance, both employees and the business will suffer in different ways. On a wider scale, job design can also have a significant effect on clients and other stakeholders depending on how employees interact with them. 

Beyond the economic consequences of poor job design, there are a number of different impacts it can have on overall safety. Safe Work Australia states that these can include greater risks to people and property, lower employee engagement levels and missed opportunities to innovate and stay ahead of the competition. 

Essentially, ineffective job design has an impact on much more than just the physical safety of employees. By focussing on eliminating the hallmarks of poor job design, such as overly repetitive tasks and stressful environments, organisations can create a positive safety culture that also encourages people to perform at their best. 

To find out more about redesigning elements of your workplace to get the most out of health and safety, get in touch with IPM Consulting. 

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