Is Our Culture Healthy and Safe Yet?

This month marks one year since the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 came into force – this Act is no longer seen as regulatory red tape.  Assura Software is meeting the business demand for tailored and automated health and safety systems that deliver further productivity benefits in addition to healthy and safe workplaces.

Speaking recently to the National Business Review, lawyer Sarah Shortall, best known for representing Pike River directors following the 2010 disaster, put the need New Zealand had to change behaviour succinctly:

Some of the ‘great’ aspects of New Zealand workplace culture – including working hard and getting things done and being innovative – have had the unintended, negative consequence of workers taking some shortcuts – not with an intent, in my view, to make people unhealthy or unsafe but rather to just get on and get work completed.”

While I understand her sentiment, it’s important to remember that EVERYONE, workers and employers, have a duty to make sure the workplace is safe and healthy. However, there still remains unnecessary fear and concern about punitive powers of the legislation.

A colleague of mine used to work in communications for the Department of Labour – the government department responsible for health and safety information and enforcement before the Pike River tragedy and the advent of Worksafe New Zealand.  Sadly, the construction industry continues to have the highest workplace fatality rates and that year had been particularly deadly.

Sustained media interest led to the current affairs television programme, 60 Minutes, gaining permission for a film crew to accompany a workplace safety inspector as he visited construction sites.  Several times when they pulled up outside a building site, she described scenes of utter panic where upon seeing the vehicle, tools were thrown into the back of utes, tradesman scattered, and scaffolding was left abandoned as they sped off the site leaving trails of dust.  “If it wasn’t so unnecessarily sad, I would have thought I was in the Benny Hill Show,” my colleague said.

But times have changed – partly through tragic events that saw a shake up of the governance and regulations – but increasingly as New Zealand management replaces fear and loathing of such compliance with viewing health and safety as an essential part of good business practice.

There is also a growing recognition of the positive outcomes that a good health and safety system in the workplace can deliver – including regular communications between employees and management, greater trust, and more positive ‘no blame’ work cultures. This is even before counting the human, productivity and financial benefits from less workplace accidents and health issues.

The best business leaders are investing in automated platforms that are tailored to their specific business health and safety needs.  These platforms, like that offered by Assura, are also accessible on other mobile devices from anywhere and across worksites. The same colleague remarked on this recently when visiting a Trade Assist site in Christchurch – a company helping in a number of key rebuild projects and which has recently implemented Assura’s automated health and safety platform.  “It was incredible,” she said.  “Not a speeding ute in site – in fact young construction workers coming up to me with their iPhones to show their health and safety system, tailored just for their hazards and how they worked.”

“Like the off colour jokes of the period, smart companies like Trade Assist know that scenes worthy of 1970s British comedies are well gone.”