How the health and safety gravy train is suck­ing the pro­duc­tiv­ity out of NZ man­u­fac­tur­ing

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - NMEC -

Are you be­ing suck­ered by the H&S gravy train? You can save money im­me­di­ately by read­ing the fol­low­ing.

Test and tag­ging of elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances and leads is NOT a le­gal re­quire­ment in NZ in­dus­trial plants.

If you Google it you’ll find any amount of ref­er­ences con­vinc­ing you that it is a le­gal re­quire­ment, but fol­low those links and you will al­ways come to the test and tag in­dus­try many of whom are cul­ti­vat­ing this fal­lacy and who ul­ti­mately ben­e­fit fi­nan­cially from your con­fu­sion.

“In the view of the MESNZ this is but one ex­am­ple of the un­help­ful ‘smoke and mir­rors’ rub­bish that gets seized upon and pro­moted by health and safety ad­vi­sors and HR prac­ti­tion­ers, par­tic­u­larly within larger or­gan­i­sa­tions,” said Barry Robin­son, Chair­man of the Main­te­nance En­gi­neer­ing So­ci­ety of NZ.

“What is hap­pen­ing is th­ese mis­lead­ing H&S pro­cesses be­come de-facto norms and get mim­icked by the me­dia and smaller or­gan­i­sa­tions who think that be­cause the big plants are do­ing it, then it must be the spec­i­fied stan­dard that needs to be adopted in all in­dus­trial op­er­a­tions large or small.”

Robin­son, who has spent over 30 years safely and healthily run­ning NZ’s largest hot forg­ing and heat treat­ment plant, makes no apolo­gies for his con­fronta­tional ap­proach.

Other ex­am­ples are: com­pul­sory wear­ing of safety glasses, hard hats and hi- viz vests in in­dus­trial plants; pro­lif­er­a­tion of or­ange con es; stress-in­duc­ing bee per­son ma­chin­ery; and ban­ning of lad­ders. Th­ese things waste time, money, and pro­duc­tiv­ity. Worse, in many cases they can ac­tu­ally ex­pose us to greater risk.

“A com­mon ex­am­ple of in­creased risk is the wear­ing of safety glasses: safety glasses de­tract from our nat­u­ral vi­sion and senses in sev­eral ways - fog­ging, lim­it­ing or ob­scur­ing of pe­riph­eral vi­sion and im­me­di­ate up­per and lower frontal vi­sion, ir­ri­ta­tion and pres­sure. By wear­ing safety glasses, we are im­pos­ing ad­di­tional risks on the wearer – so we had bet­ter have a re­ally ex­cel­lent rea­son for forc­ing this in­creased risk on ALL our staff in our in­dus­trial plants.

“It i s in­fin­itely bet­ter to sim­ply wear safety glasses where there i s an ac­tual risk to the eyes. When worn un­der ear­muffs the glasses pre­vent the ear­muffs from do­ing their job, thereby ex­pos­ing us to real hear­ing dam­age over time, whilst look­ing like we are ‘ be­ing safe’. You get the idea?’ said Robin­son. He added “ev­ery­thing here has hap­pened to me.”

“Don’t get us wrong”, he said, “at MESNZ, we are all for keep­ing peo­ple in plants safe and healthy – but we achieve far bet­ter re­sults by us­ing sim­ple logic and keep­ing it real.”

So, in the test and tag ex­am­ple, por­ta­ble ap­pli­ance test­ing ( PAT) can be done in- house, and it does not have to be car­ried out by a reg­is­tered elec­tri­cian. PAT testers do need to be com­pe­tent and trained, there needs to be a good stan­dard of record keep­ing, and if faults are iden­ti­fied dur­ing test­ing or when un­der­tak­ing pre- use checks, any un­safe ap­pli­ances need to be taken out of ser­vice im­me­di­ately. This is the stan­dard, sim­ple, ba­sic stuff.

It is a lit tle bit like a pi­lot check­ing the air­craft be­fore f light – just be­cause the plane was checked yes­ter­day doesn’t mean it is safe to f ly to­day. An ex­ten­sion lead un­know­ingly dam­aged this morn­ing ( but still with a cur­rent Tag on it) could kill you this af­ter­noon if the user does not give it a five- sec­ond check for ob­vi­ous dam­age be­fore use.

A com­pany that just gets its gear tested and tagged ev­ery six months looks like it is do­ing a great job of H&S, but un­less it also has RCD’s and does pre- use checks, the users are lulled into a false sense of se­cu­rity. It is just lip ser­vice with no staff en­gage­ment in real health and safety.


Come to the MESNZ’s Na­tional Main­te­nance En­gi­neer­ing Con­fer­ence in Hamil­ton this Novem­ber 15 & 16, and learn of many other things that you don’t have to waste your pre­cious re­sources on (

Have your eyes opened by the en­light­en­ing pre­sen­ta­tion ‘ The Em­peror is wear­ing Flu­oro Clothes’.

Take the learn­ings back to your plant and ben­e­fit from im­me­di­ate in­creases in staff H&S en­gage­ment and work­place safety.


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