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Worker engagement and participation in H&S

Everyone is responsible for H&S and helping one another stay healthy and safe. This is true from a practical perspective, as well as a legal one — each business needs to make sure workers can contribute to health and safety decisions at work.

What engaging and participating in H&S means

You get better health and safety (H&S) 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.

Involve your people

It’s essential for business owners to engage with their workers and have ways for them to participate in H&S. This is because:

  • Workers are a business’s eyes and ears, especially when it comes to risk.
  • Workers are more likely to work safely if they take part in H&S thinking.
  • It encourages everyone to take ownership.
  • H&S becomes easier because the workload is shared.
  • It’s your legal responsibility to make it happen.
  • It will improve your H&S practices.
Make it easy for workers to report H&S issues.

Make it easy for workers to report H&S issues.

Goodmans, a civil contracting firm, boosted on-site reporting and worker participation with a number of simple measures.

Read more about how they did it on the WorkSafe website.(external link)

What to do about H&S matters at work

It’s all about two-way communication. Business owners must:

  • ask for, listen to and take into account the views of workers when making decisions that may affect their health and safety
  • explain to workers the result of any H&S decision in a timely way
  • have clear ways for workers to raise their own suggestions for improving H&S.

Workers must have:

  • information about any H&S matter, and time to think about it
  • the opportunity to freely speak their mind about H&S matters
  • the ability to contribute to H&S decision-making processes
  • explained to them why a certain H&S decision has been made.
If your work has regular H&S meetings or toolbox talks and workers rarely speak, it’s probably a sign that it’s not that effective.

If your work has regular H&S meetings or toolbox talks and workers rarely speak, it’s probably a sign that it’s not that effective.

Keeping people healthy and safe

This is a text version of the visual guide. It's aimed at people who use screen readers, or who prefer to take in information by reading.

Health and safety (H&S) isn’t about paperwork and ticking boxes. It’s a way of thinking and behaving to keep everyone safe and healthy at work. Every business is different, and you and your workers are the best people to spot risks and promote great H&S practices in your business. Take on an H&S mindset and you’ll be in good shape.

Make H & S an everyday thing

H&S isn’t a rulebook that sits on a shelf. It needs to be an everyday thing. Look around, identify risks with your workers, and look daily at what could influence the H&S of your work. Doing this will help H&S become second nature.

Take responsibility for things you control

Don’t expect other people to make your work or behaviour safe. Take responsibility for what you can control. Everyone has a role to play, so talk about what each person can do to minimise risks as they work — including contractors.

Communicate openly and honestly

Regular H&S talks are essential for creating a strong H&S culture. Two-way communication is really important. Workers have to feel comfortable coming to you, and you to them. Approach people with a friendly and problem-solving attitude.

Get workers involved

Workers are well placed to identify risks and suggest safer ways of working. Getting workers involved will encourage them to take responsibility for H&S at work. So take the time to get their input.

Manage your risks

Prioritise those risks that could cause serious harm or injury. Always think about how you can realistically eliminate risks — and if you can’t, then take steps to minimise them.

Learn from incidents

When incidents happen, take the time to review and learn from them. Talk with workers and contractors, take notes, change processes, do whatever is best to learn, improve and reduce the chance of it happening again.

Take a fresh look

When you do the same work day after day, it can be easy to miss risks. Regularly look at how you and your team are working. A WorkSafe visit is a great way to take a fresh look at how well you’re doing and where you could improve.

What’s important is that everyone has a chance to freely say what they think on H&S matters, and that you consider and respond to their suggestions.

What’s important is that everyone has a chance to freely say what they think on H&S matters, and that you consider and respond to their suggestions.

H&S matters workers must be part of

You’ll need to ensure workers can contribute on H&S matters which may affect them, including:

  • identifying risks
  • making decisions about “reasonably practicable” ways to address risks
  • making decisions about whether workers’ welfare facilities are good enough
  • proposed changes which could affect their health or safety
  • procedures for information and training
  • ways your business involves its people in H&S.

How to assess health and safety risks

Case study

Case study

Training customised to fit

Tim and Suzie run a dairy farm in Waikato. They employ two casual workers, Ken and Chris, who use heavy equipment as part of their jobs. Having both been raised on farms, Ken and Chris are comfortable doing this.

However, when Tim buys a much larger tractor, he wants to make sure everyone knows the proper way to use it and feels confident driving it. This is because it’s an expensive asset and because he’s concerned about people’s safety.

Tim asks Ken and Chris how they would best like to learn how to drive the more powerful tractor. Because they both like hands-on learning, they both say they’d like Tim to show them how to use it in practice.

However, Ken says he’d also like the manual, so he can read it and ask any follow-up questions. Tim gives Ken the manual. Chris, however, is dyslexic and this isn’t going to work as well for him. Knowing this, Tim asks Chris if there is anything else that might help his learning style. Chris says he’d just like a few more hours watching Tim and Ken drive it before he starts himself. If he has any questions or concerns he’ll ask.

Everyone is happy with this arrangement and Chris is thankful his boss took his dyslexia into account.

H&S representatives and committees

Any business can arrange for one of its workers to be an H&S representative or set up an H&S committee.

Some business must have a rep, or consider a committee, if requested by workers. These are businesses with 20+ workers or those classed by law as being high-risk. See the list of industries considered high-risk(external link) on the New Zealand Legislation website.

However, you can still agree to an H&S representative, even if legally you don't have to. It's a great way to get your people involved in health and safety at the workplace.

Ask workers “Is there anything you worry about at work?”

Ask workers “Is there anything you worry about at work?”

Keeping the question broad can get better results.

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