Skip to main content Skip to page navigation

In association with

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

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

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.

Test your understanding of worker engagement and participation by taking a WorkSafe quiz (external link) .

casestudy TrainingCustomisedToFit

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.

Do you know what your next steps are after reading this page?

We want to know if you have more confidence to take action after reading the information on this page.