What is health and safety and why is it so important? – Harm-Less New Zealand

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What is health and safety and why is it so important?

Health and safety is a critical business function and something that we advocate to be woven into the very fabric of your organisation’s DNA. As well as being the right thing to do and the lawful thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do. 

At a primitive level health and safety aims to prevent injuries but in today’s operating environment it is so much more than that. Health and safety these days considers the impacts of, and encompasses every part of your working environment including 

  • The physical work environment – everything we can see that impacts our working environment e.g. equipment, substances, furniture, air, machines
  • The psychosocial work environment e.g. attitudes, beliefs, values, practices
  • Our personal health resources e.g. support by the organisation for workers to improve or maintain healthy behaviours
  • Enterprise community environment e.g. how the organisation impacts the community and how the community impacts the organisation

To be effective, Health and safety needs to be strategic. It should be a consideration in pretty much every decision your people make that affects how you do business.

  • Leadership – do your leaders lead by example?
  • Policy – do your policies support and facilitate safe and healthy practices or do they hinder them?
  • Hiring – are you hiring the right people for the task at hand? Can you do inhouse or is it more appropriate to outsource?
  • Design – has your working environment been designed to facilitate or hinder safe practices?
  • Purchasing – are you considering the safety features of all that you purchase?
  • Maintenance – do you have a maintenance program that considers safe working practices for your maintenance team and is the schedule designed to minimise downtime and breakdowns?
  • Equipment – is the right equipment for the job being used, is there a safer piece of equipment that could do the same task, can manual handling be reduced by using lifting equipment?
  • Customer journey – how is the safety of your customers affected by the work you do?
  • Training and development – have you trained your people in how to perform their role safely? Do they know how to identify risk factors in their role? Do they have authority to cease unsafe work?

When health and safety is an afterthought your business misses valuable opportunities to facilitate a smoothly run business (and not just from a health and safety perspective). In our experience, workplaces who value health and safety and have been able to integrate it into their workplace’s DNA generally have more cohesive teams, experience less turnover, can be more profitable, are able to identify new opportunities for generating revenue, are able to identify issues before they become problems and in general run a lot smoother than those who still focus on the compliance aspects.

While compliance is one aspect of health and safety, in our view, focusing on it results in unintended outcomes – outcomes that detract from business performance and frustratingly usually don’t improve safety outcomes. When people focus on compliance they forget that the overriding intent of health and safety is to send people home from work unharmed and instead focus on things that really aren’t important (like ticking boxes).

If you would like some insights into how you can make health and safety part of your organisations DNA and move away from simply ticking boxes, get in touch. We’d love to hear from you and our first conversation is always complimentary.