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.
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.
It’s essential for business owners to engage with their workers and have ways for them to participate in H&S. This is because:
Goodmans, a civil contracting firm, boosted on-site reporting and worker participation with a number of simple measures.
It’s all about two-way communication. Business owners must:
Workers must have:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You’ll need to ensure workers can contribute on H&S matters which may affect them, including:
Test your understanding of worker engagement and participation by taking a WorkSafe quiz (external link) .
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.
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.
Keeping the question broad can get better results.