Why OHS is important
Schools face increasing expectations and pressures - many of which need to be addressed immediately. However‚ there are good reasons to treat OHS as a core issue for schools. If it is an integral part of school planning‚ and addressed as part of other school processes‚ it contributes to the school's goal of providing excellent educational outcomes for students.
Improving the school climate
It is well known that students perform better in a school whose staff has high motivation and morale. Significant contributors to high motivation and morale among staff are freedom from the risk of physical or psychological pain and disease‚ such as pain resulting from injuries‚ joint or muscle pain‚ back pain‚ stress‚ anxiety or depression. Good OHS performance in schools is linked to improved morale‚ reduced sick leave‚ and improved retention of teachers and other staff. Putting effort into OHS is an excellent way to demonstrate to staff that the leadership team cares about their wellbeing - resulting in fewer injuries‚ greater job satisfaction‚ increased motivation and better industrial relations‚ as well as better student performance.
Meeting community expectations
School communities expect that school leaders will ensure that people who come into the school will go home at the end of the day as healthy as they arrived. Furthermore‚ schools have a responsibility to model healthy and safe workplaces for their students‚ who are the employers and employees of the future.
Improving a school's OHS performance has a direct impact on its budget. Lower sick leave rates reduce the need to engage casual relief (CRT) teachers; and better staff retention lowers recruitment and replacement costs. In addition‚ good OHS performance reduces the risk of public liability claims and has the potential to reduce WorkCover premiums.
Meeting legal obligations
The legal requirements in relation to health and safety are set out in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (OHS Act) and the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2007. All employers have a legal obligation to provide a healthy and safe workplace‚ so far as it is reasonably practicable to do so.
Schools also have a legal duty of care towards their students. In most cases establishing a health and safety culture with effective OHS processes will assist in meeting this duty of care.
All these factors add up to an imperative for school leaders to make OHS a part of core business in their school communities.