October 22, 2020 3 min read

Friend or foe

Let’s face it… we all love to hate a bureaucratic department. They bring with them the expectation of more red tape and a feeling that it is just something else to take you away from trying to conduct your core business activities. But is that really the case for WorkSafe NZ? In my opinion, the answer is no, and this article explains why.

Setting the scene

  • New Zealand, as a nation, has an appalling track record of sending its workers home alive and uninjured at the end of each working day. As at 2015:
    • “On average, 73 people per year die on the job, 1 in 10 is harmed and 600-900 die from work-related diseases—all coming at a cost of $3.5 billion per year. And that’s doesn’t count the social and psychological costs on the friends, family, loved ones and co-workers of those people hurt on the job” (nor does it count injuries and deaths resulting from work place road accidents, the maritime industry or the aviation industry).
Source: WorkSafe NZ 2015
  • Almost without exception, all work place deaths and injuries are preventable.
  • The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Pike River Coal Mine Tragedy in 2012 and the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety in 2013 both recommended significant changes to New Zealand Health & Safety because what was in place simply wasn’t working.
  • Adopting safe & healthy work practices is just good business practice… believe it or not, the improved health & safety outcomes are actually just a very positive side effect.
  • Good Health & Safety solutions are simple, cost effective and can quickly become habitual (just like putting a seat belt on in a car)

Why didn’t the ways of old work?

If our clients are anything to go by, with the best of intentions, a lot of businesses went out and bought a Health & Safety Manual… right? And then what happened? Our clients tell us, that despite their good intentions, they got busy, found other “priorities” and the Health & Safety manual either got used as a very expensive door stop, or it was left on the shelf gathering dust. Sound familiar? It’s that “intent” which is probably the single biggest reason why Health & Safety isn’t yet where it needs to be in this country. Because what Health & Safety needs, to truly work, isn’t intent, its action = implementation.

The role of WorkSafe NZ is to get our businesses (that’s you) to adopt preventative strategies (one way or another).

The cost of an injury to a work place is huge – bigger than you probably imagine. Depending on your organisation, if the wrong person gets seriously injured, it could cripple your business. Even if it doesn’t it will cause down time, stress, potentially lost customers, reduced productivity, potential fines and potential jail time… and the list continues to go on. A lot of the people I speak to really resent the changes that are taking place to improve Health & Safety outcomes. They think they are overkill.  They think because they’ve never had an accident at their work place it will never happen to them… But past performance isn’t a predictor of future performance. If you are employing unsafe practices in your workplace, it’s not a matter of if an accident happens, it is a matter of when. Just because you’ve been lucky until now, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ll be lucky forever.

This is where I believe WorkSafe NZ is your friend not your foe.

When a WorkSafe NZ Inspector comes to your workplace and they discover an unsafe practice and alert you to fix it, you need to thank them. They have probably just prevented a lot of stress and saved you $1000s in lost time, lost customers, fines, increased ACC levies, lost productivity, reduced employee moral… the list really does go on and on. But you don’t need to wait for a WorkSafe NZ Inspector to visit your workplace to get started on improving the safety of your workplace. Accidents happen every day so why wouldn’t you get proactive and start improving your workplace safety now… the sooner you start, the less likely you'll experience the stress and expense of a workplace accident. If you aren’t sure where or how to get started or you have an existing system in place but aren’t sure if it meets the legislative requirements, get in contact with us. Together we can develop or modify your strategy for implementation to ensure you are meeting all your obligations under the legislation. With a little help from a Health & Safety Support organisation like ours, implementing a safe working environment is probably more cost effective, less stressful and more rewarding than you think.
Barb Hutchinson
Barb Hutchinson

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