It’s a myth that small businesses are exempt from health and safety laws — the new rules apply to all businesses, large and small, high risk and low risk.
You and your workers must all be involved in keeping people safe and healthy at work. For some, this means there is effective communication throughout the business. What does it mean for your business?
Everyone who goes to work deserves to come home healthy and safe. One of the best ways to do this is to get everyone involved in spotting risks, raising concerns and talking about practical ways to improve health and safety (H&S).
No matter how big or small, all businesses must make sure workers can contribute to H&S decisions. How this is done depends on your industry and your workers. What works well for some will not be suitable for others.
This means that New Zealand’s “she’ll be right” attitude is often not good enough.
You get better health and safety if you all take ownership for getting everyone home healthy and safe. The way to do this is to engage with your workers and have ways for them to participate.
Workers are the eyes and ears of a business. They know the potential risks and what makes their work more difficult. It’s good for you to know about these challenges, as trying to avoid them is how people sometimes take unsafe shortcuts.
“All workers, from the frontline to management, who carry out work for a business must have reasonable opportunities to participate in improving work health and safety,” says Chris Jones, WorkSafe’s manager of strategy.
“When you are talking about work-related health and safety risks, make sure you involve the workers who are, or are likely to be, directly affected.”
If your work has regular H&S meetings and workers rarely speak, it’s probably a sign you need to run these differently. What’s important is that everyone has a chance to freely say what they think, and that you consider and respond to their suggestions.
This makes it more realistic and easier to show the right H&S practices and equipment, as well as any potential mistakes.
Health and safety representatives are a tried and tested way to involve your workers in finding the best H&S solutions. Another option that might suit your business is to have an H&S committee.
Some businesses must arrange elections for H&S reps if asked to do so. These businesses either:
However, you can still agree to an H&S rep, even if legally you don't have to.
It’s a good idea to see your workers as part of the solution. Their knowledge of their day-to-day work means they are often best placed to identify risks — and potential solutions.