Tony Rigg, director of 360 Safety Solutions and National Manager of the NZ Institute of Safety Management.
Why are NZ businesses so lousy at health and safety?
It's not the businesses themselves, it's the attitudes of New Zealanders towards health and safety, with a "she'll be right" attitude. We're very good at pulling out the great NZ excuse book, for example: "It costs too much, there's not enough time to do safety, or it was only a five minute job."
How are standards going to change in the coming year? What changes can we expect?
The Directors Guidelines which have been published making people in management positions more accountable for health and safety. The new Act in June 2014 but in the meantime a stronger attitude from the Government inspectors and when they become WorkSafe NZ on December 1, 2013 they will have a much more coordinated approach towards improving health and safety across all company types.
What do you think the new Work Safe agency will do?
I think they will hold companies and individuals much more accountable for their health and safety responsibilities. Responsibilities is a word that under NZ culture is not taken seriously or is avoided and it will require strong education and enforcement for people to take their responsibilities seriously.
Where have you seen small businesses go wrong with their health and safety policies?
They often think it is too hard to achieve good health and safety practices within their own company. They need to understand that good health and safety practices does provide much better profitability which has been proven overseas time and time again.
Should someone at the company have special responsiblity for health and safety?
I think someone should oversee it but it is the responsibility of all directors and employees to have good health and safety practices within the company. Health and safety isn't just up to one person and good leadership is fundamental to the success of health and safety within a business. All employees need to be empowered by their line management.
What does it do for business, having good health and safety procedures?
Improves profitability with more skilled workers, less absenteeism, and reduced costs associated with injuries. The true costs of accidents and incidents on site is often overlooked and can have a significant impact on the business. Employees are often much more engaged in the business through improved health and safety participation. Good health and safety also fosters improved communication in others areas of the business.
Do small businesses ever lose out on contracts because they are not thought professional enough in their approach to health and safety?
This happens in the contracting industry on a regular basis and is becoming much more paramount as the larger contractors are expected to manage and improve the smaller sub-contractors on their sites. Hence the much more stringent requirements around the principle and main contractor requirements coining the saying: "He who pays the bills, makes the rules".
What are some simple steps small businesses can take towards improving their procedures?
They need to engage their employees as often they will have the answers.They need to create and environment where their employees feel they are being listened to and where they feel they can make a difference. Also to obtain sound advice from a competent health and safety consultant, WorkSafe or ACC. There are a number of small business seminars available to demonstrate how easy good heath and safety practices are to achieve.
What is the main message?
It is time in NZ that we throw away our great excuse book and show to each other that the waste of life and personal suffering that we are presently seeing throughout NZ industry, can change. With the changes the Government are making around the Act, and the changes that a lot of business are implementing around leadership, these will greatly reduce this unnecessary waste of life. We need to make safety cool and effect a generational change so our children grow up with good health and safety understanding.
Good health and safety in the workplace translates to good health and safety at home.
We also need to remember the health side. It's not just about safety but also general well being.
Next week, we will be looking at the energetic types who organise events for NZ's industries. How profitable are these industry events and what good comes out of them? And is there good business to be made in running events?