James Wallace, director of Wallace Risk Solutions, explains the term ‘work cover exposure’ and gives advice on how to reduce risk in the workplace.

The pest control industry is fraught with risk. The use of hazardous chemicals, power tools and the physical nature of the work mean that businesses need to be covered in case of accident or injury.

Whilst many businesses look to insurance to cover their property, and take out public liability and professional indemnity policies, there is also risk at the individual, employee level. Any persons directly or indirectly working for the business are also ‘exposed’, meaning they could be at risk of accident or injury and could sue if work is not carried out in a safe environment. Personal safety is paramount and the penalties for pest managers failing to comply with mandatory practices, as outlined by Safe Work Australia and industry bodies, can be significant.

The work cover exposure – the risks faced by individuals in their daily jobs – in the pest management industry can be considerable. These risks include the handling, transportation and storage of chemicals and the operation of machinery, including chemical exposure. Manual work including heavy lifting, digging or climbing and working from heights in all kinds of environments is risky. The weather and type of premises (i.e. domestic, commercial) are also risk factors, as well as the type of work being carried out, whether working alone or with others. Working at your client’s premises also presents risk, as some clients may not adhere to high standards of health and safety for themselves and their workers.

Please note that worker compensation (work cover) policies vary depending on your location; it is not a national scheme and insurers usually are appointed for administration and claims handling.

Providing a safe work environment is every employer’s responsibility, basic safety plans should be available and conveyed to employees. This includes the washing of exposed body parts after a treatment, having an emergency response plan, training in the identification of hazards and the handling and transportation of chemicals. Failure to comply with any of the above means the business is open to litigation.

There are several ways to reduce your exposure as an employer. Education is the key here.

All new employees should go through an induction process that outlines the safety procedures for the safe handling of chemicals, operation of machinery, correct use of PPE, emergency procedures and Safe Work Australia practices. Understanding environmental contamination is a must, as this can carry heavy penalties, which may not be covered by insurance.

Provide ongoing training to employees ensures that they have the mindset to approach hazardous situations with due care and diligence. Any employees handling chemicals must know how to safely move, transport and mix chemicals. In the event of an incident, employees must be aware of which emergency services to contact and have access to appropriate medical kits and training in how to use them. Full, well maintained PPE is essential, and employees must be well schooled in the use of respirators. Employees should be continually educated about new chemicals entering the market, and have information available to pass on to clients.

Insurance policies such as income protection or accident and illness can cover part of the exposure. This coverage can be complex especially for sole traders who may income split or have tax reduction in place, so it is best to use an advisor.

As always, avoiding an injury through preventative action is always better than taking a reactive approach. Injury claims can cost businesses money, as well as significant reputational damage.

Workplace safety is paramount no matter the size of your business. You and your employees are the best assets a business has, so it pays to protect them.

James Wallace, Director, Wallace Risk Solutions

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