Small business: Health and safety - Ceillhe Sperath

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Ceillhe Sperath founder and director with her husband Neill.
Ceillhe Sperath founder and director with her husband Neill.

Ceillhe Sperath founder and director with her husband Neill, of global tourism award winner, TIME Unlimited Tours (To Integrate Maori Experiences) which was established in 2005. Auckland-based TIME Unlimited Tours focuses on providing:

• Auckland Tours
• Auckland Maori Tours
• Guided Wilderness Walks
• Auckland Shore Excursions and private Auckland and NZ Tours

Do you have someone in your business who has a dedicated role to health and safety regulations in the business?

Yes, I am that person partly because I have held roles as a quality and risk manager several times in my previous employment career where health and safety (H&S) was a part of an integrated management system. I also belong to a number of networks where H&S is part of the normal topic of interest to business managers and strategic decision-makers. In our induction process I am the one who provides the initial presentation on H&S and I continue as the point of contact for any incidents and/or improvements that might come up.

Can NZ tourism businesses be a bit "no. 8 wire" about health and safety?

We don't think so as we believe we are a leading industry that sets the bar around H&S. You find any tourism H&S incidents always make the headlines because of its high profile as a key industry of importance to our economic success and global reputation. We believe if you look at the positive stats or the great H&S success stories then you will see we are a standout industry which, in its broadest extent, employs most New Zealanders.

Furthermore, we believe that if you are in tourism you would have to have had your head in the sand if you were not fully engaged in what it takes to be in this industry. We feel H&S compliance is definitely in place whether you engage in a formal independent certification programme like the ACC WSMP scheme or Qualmark certification. There are also the industry networks that apply an ongoing informal pressure to keep standards high from other operators and industry watchdogs. Part of this is reputation driven but we also feel that with speed of business and the online transparency where clients are able to 'vote' on their confidence in you via social media or other online tools, H & S is crucial.

In our type of service business where people are being given an experience real-time in a number of environments and changing landscapes, it heightens our awareness of just how many variables can impact on our business every day. It starts with recruiting people that not only have the right skills and experience of the role but ensuring they have the right attitude toward H&S among other business essentials but that they are adaptable to the various changing environment we encounter. An example of this is drug and alcohol testing which is being considered across the spectrum of business and society.

Is it a cost for you to make sure you adhere to all health and safety requirements?

Absolutely. If you are committed to this area, then there are costs associated
with review and improvement activities, direct costs to purchase H&S services and products used in our service offering, ongoing training and education which includes actually engaging the team on the key areas they need to work on for their roles. We also invest time and effort to network with others in our industry and with associated industries as it helps to understand how others are dealing with issues. We also ensure that we have a strategic focus with goals set around H&S and budgeting for certain compliance requirements, for instance first aid training, vehicle maintenance and safety reviews. It is important that these goals are part of business as usual, not an add-on to meet some certification audit that might take place. One area of improvement for us is to ensure some of the documentation such as our H&S manual is a more concise document that dovetails into our other team checklists that our team actually use.

How do you get your staff and contractors on board with health and safety procedures?

Firstly, it comes from careful selection of the right people from the very start. We believe there is too much mediocrity and so we seek out people to work with us who can comprehend our high standards across all aspects of our business with H&S being no exception. If they are engaged and valued from the start and we have established what we expect of our team to provide the ultimate service and experience for our clients, plus we are respectful of all our interactions with all other people who supply or support us, then the simple answer to get our team on board with H&S 100 per cent is to ask them!

Have you had any adviser in the business?

Zac de Silva has been an overall business coach plus we have other advisers in financial, environmental, cultural and social areas.


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?

For a good summary of the health and safety changes afoot click here

- NZ Herald

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