Health and safety is everyone’s business whether it is government, industry or community. With health and safety playing a fundamental part of everyday business, it is as much about leadership as commitment and dedication to make certain that steps are taken to ensure active involvement of workers at every level.
It is critical for small and large business to build healthy, safe and productive workplaces and to develop a concrete health and safety policy. Knowledge of workplace health and safety covers topics such as health and safety research, incidence data, occupational health data, international trends, workplace experiences, and the accessibility and quality of technical guidance.
According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, workplaces do not operate in a health and safety vacuum, there is a legislative framework, ACC and a range of training organisations and standards. In addition to this, workplaces operate in a wider and dynamic labour market, where there are also workplace specific systems and processes that support improved health and safety.
Small businesses have often found it challenging to access health and safety information and advice as well as ensuring appropriate, tailored and targeted tools and guidance is available. Recently, the anticipated Health and Safety Reform Bill has been introduced into Parliament.
The Bill is part of a list of changes that have been introduced following the Pike River Coal Mine tragedy and various subsequent reviews that have observed a poor health and safety record in New Zealand. It is based on the Australian Model Work Health and Safety Act 2011 with some modifications for the New Zealand context.
‘Gerry Lynch, chairman of the FGC’s workplace health and safety committee has noted a key aspect of the Bill being the creation of a new duty holder, known as a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU). This applies whether the person conducts a business or undertaking alone or with others, and whether a business or undertaking is conducted for profit or gain.
“The PCBU is a broad concept, which will encompass the existing duty holder categories, such as employers, principals, and persons in control of a place of work, under the Health and
Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE Act),” said Lynch. “A PCBU does not include employees or directors of PCBUs, volunteer associations, and occupiers of a home who employ or engage another person solely to do residential work.” The Bill will replace the current standard under the HSE Act (“All Practicable Steps”) with a new ‘reasonably practicable’ standard.
The new standard is broadly similar to the existing concept of “All Practicable Steps”, except that the assessment of costs must only be taken after the assessment of the risk and the ways to eliminate that risk.
This means that costs will only take precedence over safety when the cost of taking a step is “grossly disproportionate” to the risk.” It will also see the introduction of a new general duty on all PCBUs to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers. These may be workers under the responsibility of the PCBU whilst employed and working at a business or in carrying out work under the influence or direction of the PCBU.
“Another major change to the bill is the introduction of a positive duty on officers to exercise due diligence to ensure that a PCBU complies with that duty or obligation. This is a key change from the HSE Act, where directors of a company can only be held liable where they have directly participated in, contributed to, or acquiesced in their company’s failure,” said Lynch.
Lynch discussed that under the Bill, officers may be convicted for a breach of due diligence regardless of whether the PCBU has been convicted of an offence. “There are three offence tiers relating to breaches of health and safety issues. Reckless conduct, failure to comply with a Duty, with exposure to death or serious injury, and failure to comply with a duty, with no exposure to death or serious injury. All three come with hefty fines and the first may also result in imprisonment.”
Lynch said that most companies in the food and grocery area have nothing to fear from the new legislation, if employees are cared for, businesses are currently assessing risk, taking a proactive stance on health and safety and follow up on accidents, the new legislation should not change what you do.
“The biggest opportunity for our industry is in safety leadership and that starts with the head of the business, the CEO or GM, taking more of a leadership position on safety, talking more about it, recognising great behaviours and being more curious about it. I would recommend that all CEOs look at what the business leader’s forum can offer in terms of your safety leadership journey,” said Lynch. Foodstuffs North Island has always taken workplace health and safety extremely seriously and they have been preparing for the upcoming changes for the last year.
“Our systems have been transitioned to give risk and even greater emphasis in line with the changes,” said Mark Daldorf, general manager human resources of Foodstuffs North Island. “For example we have recently enhanced the safety instructions around the safe use of band saws in store butchery departments.”
The co-operative has also made other changes including installing ‘The Vault’, an electronic health and safety governance system across the business (New World, Gilmour’s and PAK’nSave). The system acts as a hub for all of Foodstuff’s health and safety and employees training records, as well as other safety information for sites. The Vault is not the only new initiative from Foodstuff’s.
We have significantly strengthened our health and safety structure. Four health and safety advisors have been added across our distribution centres, support centres and in transport.
Foodstuffs have also integrated further its health and safety processes into store ownership changeovers and store business review reporting. “Supplier merchandiser health and safety is another key focus,” said Daldorf.
“We are working with the FGC safety committee on the online induction modules for “safe in-store passes” to ensure merchandisers are equipped with the necessary level of knowledge when they arrive at our stores.”
Flooring in supermarkets is a hot topic and between stain resistance and an ability to survive changing flows in foot traffic, not only should flooring be properly protected but safe and tailored to specific areas. Slip resistant flooring solutions and carefully selected matting can reduce and even prevent accidents and hazards.
NZMATS.COM specialise in assessing client requirements and supplying the right matting solution, in a timely manner. Countdown stores observed a potential slip hazard at the fresh grape display after realizing that whole grapes were falling onto the floor. The company got in touch with NZMATS.COM for a solution. A specific mat was suggested and trialed to assess its suitability to the specific situation. The mat was proven to be effective and the company supplied these high quality anti-slip mats to all Countdown stores in New Zealand.
Use of these mats has ensured compliance with health and safety requirements. Prevention is always better than cure and use of appropriate matting prevents slips, trips and falls that could hurt the customer, staff and the store’s reputation. While numbers and data have a role to play, Countdown has always focused on working with teams to drive a positive change in behaviours when it comes to workplace health and safety.
“We’ve recently conducted a review of our induction training and this is being rolled out to new team members during their training and will also be used as part of our refreshers for existing team members,” said Scott Kyle, national health, safety and environment manager.
“We’ve been working closely with our suppliers around the changes to the PCBU role and are continuing to share the health, safety and environment information that is available with our wider business to ensure we are all working to create a safe working environment for our team, our business partners and our suppliers.” Paul Jarvie, Employers and Manufacturers
Association (EMA) employment relations and safety manager and resident guru on the health and safety act, has worked closely with the minister and officials on the EMA’s behalf. He sees three major changes in the new legislation.
“The biggest single amendment is that the directors as officers need to have comfort that the CEO/manager is maintaining a safe place for staff, workers and the public,” said Jarvie.
Rather than storeowners providing information to CEO/managers, these roles should be applying positive enquiry to owners as to what they are doing to ensure a safe workplace. To do that it is important to know what questions or metrics to ask for.
“Lag indicators are all the things that have gone wrong and are important as they are learning tools. Lead indicators are where positive enquiry comes into play, here plans for the next six months are made to ensure intervention and prevention.” An important factor in this planning is that training and audits are not just proposed, they are physically implemented. The effect of this change is the CEO/manager is under the microscope and held generally responsible for workplace health and safety.
A second major change is the extended definition of the term ‘worker’. Previously it included staff and contractors, but from April 2016 the term will extend to volunteers and people gaining work experience. These workers will need formal induction and training with the introduction of the new legislation.
Rising levels and awareness regarding health and safety has seen a significant modification. CEO’s and board’s need to know that staff are trained in the work that they have to do, especially for high risk tasks.
Businesses need to be aware of what they should be doing now, in the run up to April 2016. Existing health and safety systems should be audited to ensure that systems in place are implemented and effective. Directors also need to communicate with the board to see what metrics are required from the business. “Reports should be meaningful and not just numbers,” said Jarvis.
The EMA itself has just completed a large road show, informing its members of the new legislation and next year a smaller road show ill go out explaining the new regulations. Training is also being re-written and changed to meet the member’s needs. “Scaremongering is rife at the moment. It’s to be expected but it’s bad. Get competent advice, if you are doing all that you are supposed to be doing now then you will be in good stead for April. All of the changes are at the director level. The sun will rise on April 16 and the world will go on,” said Jarvie.