Date: 30th May 2014
If the words ‘health and safety’ make you yawn, beware! Occupational health and safety is set to become a bigger part of our working lives. The lessons learned from the Pike River mining disaster have resulted in an overhaul of the existing Health and Safety in Employment Act as The Health and Safety Reform Bill becomes law early next year. And with the post-earthquake building boom in Christchurch there is going to be a good deal of focus on safe work practice in the construction industry.
Historically New Zealanders have perhaps had a ‘she’ll be right’ attitude towards safety in the workplace and as a result we have one of the worst records of workplace injury and death in the Western world. But with many high profile disasters in the mining, forestry, construction and adventure activities industries, and numerous other incidents, government agencies are being forced to take a closer look at regulations and enforcement.
The Health and Safety Reform Bill is part of ‘Working Safer: a blueprint for health and safety at work’ and reforms New Zealand’s health and safety system. It aims to provide clear, consistent guidelines and information for business, additional funding to strengthen enforcement and education with focus on high-risk areas, and better coordination between government agencies. Working Safer is aimed at reducing New Zealand’s workplace injury and death toll by 25 per cent by 2020.
This week we spoke to Niall Lindsay of Prosper, specialists in occupational health and safety, quality control, environmental compliance and risk management. He warns that our complacency towards workplace safety has to change. Business owners, especially those involved in construction and manufacturing need to embrace a new and improved approach toward occupational health and safety or risk large financial repercussions or, even worse, more workforce injuries and deaths.
Niall cites three important documents that businesses need to have in place as part of their health and safety system:
Niall says these documents are especially important in the construction industry where Work Safe inspectors can make surprise visits and, in the future, will be able to issue spot fines for non-compliance. More than ever business owners and even workers are being prosecuted.
The onus is on contractors to check their sub-contractors, so subbies will find that they will not be able to secure work unless they have a formal health and safety system.
According to Niall, besides improving working conditions and risk factors for staff, there are incentives to putting a health and safety system in place, in the form of ACC rebates, higher productivity, reduced audit costs, accident insurance reductions, reduced environmental costs and supply chain improvements.
Whether you like it or not, Health & Safety in the workplace is here to stay, so cowboys beware! If you’re ready to put a plan in place or would like more information, let us know and we’ll point you in the right direction.
Managing risk in your small business is one of the topics covered in our free business workshops in Christchurch, Wanaka and Queenstown.