This week, small business editor Caitlin Sykes talks to business owners about health and safety.

Anthony Light is operations and technical manager at Tasty Pot. The Auckland-based food company has around eight full time factory staff.

What are the particular areas you're focused on when it comes to health and safety at the company?

We're a small company, and our focus is on producing food like you'd make at home. Because of that we don't have a lot of complexity in our operation and we're always trying to make things simpler. I would call us a low-risk factory, but that isn't to say we don't have a few items that could cause serious injury, and over the five years I've been here I've learnt the importance of needing to improve, and keep improving health and safety.

We have around eight main areas of risk that we're constantly talking to staff about to keep them at the forefront of their thinking. They range from some very basic ones, like dealing with heavy items. For example we have some quite heavy 25kg sacks of rice in the factory, so we're talking about correct lifting techniques. Then we have some more serious ones, like the correct handling of hot liquids, because we can be handling up to 150 litres of boiling stock at times.
And one item that's always on our mind is our forklift, which is the biggest piece of equipment we have that can expose someone to potential injury.


You mentioned that you're always talking with staff about those areas of risk. What are some other ways you perpetuate a positive health and safety culture in your organisation?

Getting more employee involvement in health and safety is one of the messages I've been getting about the new Act and through some of the videos I've been watching on the topic that Site Safe have been running. One of the things we do is what I call 'quality walks'.

We initially put them in place for food quality and food safety reasons, but they've evolved to encompass a number of other areas like production efficiency and health and safety. At the end of the day every staff member has an area of responsibility in the factory that they do a walk through to check things like whether everything is off, has been shut down and cleaned correctly, and is in the right place. As you get more senior you get a bigger area, and at the end of the day the very last person to do the walk through is the production supervisor. Not only does it make monitoring aspects of health and safety a habit, it also highlights any areas that need further attention or training if they're not taken care of.

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One thing that's also aided us and that we're proud of is we try to have a personal relationship with the customer, and to get that across we try to have a good relationship with our staff. As a result we have good staff retention; all my fulltime staff bar one have been here for at least three years, and the other person has been here a year-and-a-half. That has a double impact: it means we're not having to frequently retrain people from scratch, and keeping that institutional knowledge on site means there's less possibility of things falling through the cracks.

What's been your experience of dealing with any changes around the new legislation?

One high level issue that's come out for me is around involvement at board level, because board members can no longer plead ignorance when it comes to what's happening with health and safety. I have always reported to our board on health and safety, but now there needs to be mechanisms whereby they can monitor and verify what's being reported, so we'll need to map that out.

At a lower level, we have monthly general staff catchups about what's going on in the company, and it's usually a fun thing, like a pizza afternoon. But in terms of ongoing employee engagement around health and safety I want to include a monthly health and safety topic in there that we discuss, and then track and monitor our progress on that. Even though that's something a lot of big companies already do, for us as a small company that will be new. I see that as a way of involving employees on a regular basis, and making it a monthly habit.