Health & Safety in Work Act one year on
PROGRESS TO DATE
Let’s see how some industry professionals feel about health and safety in New Zealand twelve months on.These results were based on a survey conducted by Safeguard ( http:// www. safeguard. co. nz/ databases/ skin/ safeguard/ images/content/adhoc/Surveys/stateofthenation.pdf).
Are we taking safety seriously in the workplace? There was an 11% increase in positive responses to this question – 78% agreed, compared with 67% twelve months earlier. When asked about whether health and safety had improved in their workplace in the last twelve months, the number of respondents who saw an improvement showed a 4.8% increase from the previous year. Other key findings were that 72% of respondents said risks were discussed where businesses shared a work site (this is a key requirement set out in the Act), and 94.3% felt that organisations were more likely to be successful if they manage their health and safety. Progress is being made, but maybe too slowly!
What did the survey identify could be done better? When asked if they thought the activities undertaken in their workplace would not harm them or make them unwell only 48% felt confident about this. Some 78% agreed that their safety was being taken seriously but only 48% felt this way when it came to their health. Of those surveyed, 54% also felt that organisations were only doing the minimum to comply with the law rather than making an effort to improve workplace health and safety.
While overall health and safety may be viewed as improving across New Zealand, the rate of accidents and fatalities that occur at work remains high – so we still have plenty we can do to improve.
There has not been a decline in workplace fatalities nor in serious harm notifications for the agriculture sector since the new legislation was introduced. The graph below shows the number of fatalities in agriculture (which includes horticulture), showing a disturbing trendline. Worksafe New Zealand http://www.worksafe.govt.nz/worksafe/ research/ health- and- safety- data/ notifiable- events/ workplaceserious-harm-archive/serious-harm-notifications-by-industry.
WHAT CAN WE IMPROVE ON?
For me, the new legislation has ensured that I continue to be very aware of keeping safe and advising others of anything that I find or experience that might be unsafe in my everyday activities. In the business I work with, there was always a monthly discussion on health and safety – this has continued. If a situation arises that is a matter of health and safety, it is recorded in the incident register. Then a full review of that situation is undertaken with the team, which is documented and if necessary any new procedures are implemented. All the team is kept informed of any new procedures. This is no different to what was being undertaken before. I guess we are just all more aware of being seen to make sure we do our bit thoroughly.
It is everyone’s responsibility to be concerned about our own health and safety and that of other employees or colleagues we work with. If you know anything at all about a health or safety issue in your workplace and fail to tell your supervisor or others you work with, you could be liable should an incident occur and someone is seriously injured or more seriously, dies. The best way to explain this is to provide an example:
You are an employee on an orchard or working for a contractor and you were aware that the brakes on the tractor when you last drove it were not working as well as they should have been, but you did not say anything. One week
“It is important to know who is doing what for that day, discuss past issues and learn from them, and all the time talk about what we can do better and safer in our workplace.”
later while another work colleague was driving the same tractor the brakes failed on a slope and the driver lost control and the tractor rolled. The driver sustained some broken bones and major bruising and was fortunately thrown from the tractor rather than being pinned underneath it. He had to have at least eight weeks off work and could not continue practising for a marathon he had planned to enter. He also lost his independence while recovering as he could not drive so could not attend his children’s sports activities and was unable to continue his volunteer role as team manager for his son’s sports team.
When an incident resulting in serious injury (such as the one above) occurs, it will be investigated by Worksafe. Included in this investigation would be the interviewing of other work colleagues, including you.You would have to share the fact that you were aware that the brakes seemed faulty yet you felt it was not significant enough to have raised it with anyone.
It is the responsibility of every employer and employee to be concerned with health and safety. It is a good time to review the new legislation a year on from its introduction and to consider any changes that need to be made in your workplace.
This point was reiterated in an interesting article I read recently by Al McCone the agriculture programme manager of WorkSafe New Zealand.Al said “it's about being safe”, not about compliance. It’s about “business as a whole” and not just about health and safety ( http://www. stuff.co.nz/business/farming/opinion/91869828/ worksafe-to-farmers-preventing-harm-is-not-hard).
For those who were already aware of health and safety issues, the new legislation may not have meant many changes. Others may have become more careful to wear the appropriate protective gear, ensure that equipment is being operated correctly and that all staff are fully trained. They may now be more aware of emergency procedures.
WHERE TO NEXT?
Let’s continue to maintain good health and safety habits. It really isn’t that hard.
Remember there is one great piece of health and safety equipment we all have and that is our mouth. Worksafe are currently running a campaign to encourage all workplaces to have regular chats about health and safety involving all workers, supervisors and managers. It is important to know who is doing what for that day, discuss past issues and learn from them, and all the time talk about what we can do better and safer in our workplace.
A useful tool to help keep you up to date is the Worksafe newsletter that can be sent to your email inbox. Register via this link: https://www.business.govt.nz/join-us/subscribe-to-ournewsletter/.
If you are still unsure about what the new legislation really means for you and your business, or you feel it might be useful to refresh and upskill yourself and others, Fruition Horticulture (BOP) Ltd offer a one-day interactive health and safety course.This can be delivered at any location nationwide depending on numbers. Check it out on our webpage: http:// www.fruition.net.nz/we-offer/training/#health-and-safety.
Our Nelson consultants Greg and Mike (orange hi vis vests) discuss health and safety with an orchardist.