Workplace safety never comes off the agenda, of course. It is something that the Australian government and industry bodies take very seriously, and that will continue into 2024.

Here are some of the key trends to keep an eye out for in the New Year:

Legislation: The Work Health and Safety Act, which was updated in 2021, remains the cornerstone of workplace safety regulations in Australia. With the change of government since then, you can expect ongoing focus on where there might be areas for further improvement, so expect some discussion around new regulations or tweaks to the WH&S Act in the year ahead.

Technology and Safety: Technology has become a significant opportunity for innovative employers to improve on-site worker safety. In 2024, expect to see even more of that, as businesses across Australia look to tools like AI, IoT, and robotics to monitor and manage workplace safety. These technologies help in identifying potential hazards, ensuring compliance with safety regulations, and providing real-time alerts to prevent accidents.

PPE: Of course, for all the technology in the world, safety still relies heavily on people having the right equipment. At the same time, in 2024, expect that there will be an increasing focus on the role of SWMS in the workplace. In recent years there’s been increasing focus on prevention over ‘after-the-fact’ protection. For instance, focusing on solutions that prevent objects from falling at heights can make worksites safer than relying solely on hard hats and steel-toed boots. Ensuring that an environment has a minimal risk of an arc flash is better than relying on an arc flash kit for protection, and so on. The best employers in 2024 will make sure that they’re properly protecting their staff, while also mitigating the risk as far as possible in the first place.

Mental Health: The importance of mental health in the workplace will be more important than ever in 2024. After all, mental health can affect workplace safety, if an employee of contractor is not “on their game,” and for this reason employers are now required to ensure not just the physical safety but also the psychological well-being of their employees. Initiatives such as mental health days, counselling services, and stress management workshops have become commonplace in Australian workplaces.

Training and Awareness: Training and awareness programs remain a crucial aspect of workplace safety in 2024. A good way to start the year off, when things might be relatively quiet, is to take the opportunity to conduct the required regular safety drills, first-aid training, and workshops on safe work practices. Not only is this a legal obligation, but the start of the year is a good opportunity to update staff on new best practices and strategically think about how everyone can do more to promote workplace safety in the year ahead.

Reporting and Transparency: In 2024, there will also be an increased emphasis on reporting safety incidents and maintaining transparency. Businesses will be encouraged to report any safety incidents promptly, and it will be more important than ever to have a robust system in place so that employees to report safety concerns without fear of retaliation.

Looking ahead, the focus on workplace safety in Australia is expected to grow even further. With advancements in technology, we can expect more sophisticated safety management systems. There is also likely to be a greater emphasis on creating a culture of safety, where every individual in the workplace is responsible for maintaining safety.

It’s easy to get into the habit of taking workplace safety for granted. But it you become too complacent when filling out the SWMS’, maintaining the PPE equipment, and overlooking worker training because they’ve already gone through it in the past, the risk profile of each work site becomes more significant.

One of the best ways to start each year is to take the opportunity to double down and make sure that workplace safety is at the top of each employee’s mind. Not only will it expose your people to less risk, but it will help you protect your business and its most valuable asset – its people.