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Health and safety is an essential consideration for all businesses in New Zealand. However, it can be tricky to comply with your business’ obligations under health and safety law as a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU). Essentially all businesses in New Zealand are PCBUs. Hence, all businesses owe obligations to protect the health and safety of their workers and others affected by the business’ work. However, this can be tricky, and there are some common issues that many businesses in New Zealand run into. This article will set out three common health and safety mistakes to avoid, including:

  • having perfunctory or rushed health and safety training;
  • failing to manage identified ongoing risk; and 
  • not following existing procedures.

Having Perfunctory or Rushed Health and Safety Training

A common health and safety mistake for businesses is having adequate training but not treating them with the seriousness and substance they deserve. Having a detailed and thorough process for training and upskilling employees in health and safety processes and rights is the building block for good health and safety in any business. It also sends a positive message that the business takes health and safety issues seriously. 

It is normal for businesses to struggle with developing training that engages with employees. Few employees like sitting through long and sometimes dense training sessions, particularly when doing a session online or over Zoom. This can mean that employees do not necessarily take on the information about health and safety that the session aims to deliver. However, it is common to skip parts of the training or treat it as a perfunctory exercise or just to tick a box. 

Instead, think about how your business can deliver training about health and safety that is more engaging and accessible to your staff. Try to take real-life examples from the business to ensure that employees can see the impact. 

Failing To Manage Risks

Another common issue is failing to manage health and safety risks that your business cannot eliminate. For instance, your business operations may involve dangerous machinery or chemical substances. In that case, you may not be able to eliminate them like you usually would aim to do for health and safety hazards. 

However, while you cannot eliminate those risks, your business should do as much as possible to mitigate the risks. Ask yourself and other senior business members whether the business can take some additional practices or steps to reduce the risk. If it is a realistic or reasonable option, this may also be worth considering. For instance, you might consider replacing older machinery with a safer alternative.

Just because risks may be low does not mean that your business can ignore them, especially if the potential health and safety consequences are severe. Instead, you should try to craft a plan and process for each dangerous hazard in your business operations. Likewise, you should mitigate what you can if you cannot eliminate the hazards altogether. 

Not Following Existing Health and Safety Processes

Another common issue that businesses face is having good health and safety processes in place, but adherence to these processes and policies declines over time. It is a critical problem in your business’ health and safety regime if staff are not actually using the protective gear or following the safety procedures they are supposed to follow. Allowing a relaxed attitude to develop in your workforce is a common mistake. However, it is a mistake you must correct as soon as possible.

You can take various steps to ensure that your business is following adequate health and safety processes. Checking in with staff and your business’ health and safety representatives is an excellent first step. For example, ask for honest and objective feedback. 

Additionally, you could consider running a refresher on health and safety processes in your business. Importantly, note that adherence to processes has not been perfect in the business. For example, you may find certain employees do not take health and safety steps seriously. In that case, you should specifically manage those employees. Speak to them directly and get them to adhere to the processes, rather than allow them to undermine your business’ health and safety culture.

Key Takeaways

Most New Zealand businesses acknowledge the importance of health and safety. However, sometimes adherence to good health safety processes can be suboptimal in practice. There are some common health and safety mistakes to watch out for and address in your business. These include having perfunctory training for health and safety or one that your employees rush through. Instead, you should conduct an engaging and comprehensive health and safety training. You should also take extra steps with hazards that can be mitigated but not eliminated. Finally, check in regularly to see that staff are following your business’s health and safety processes.

If you would like more information about health and safety processes and mistakes, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should a business do if employees ignore health and safety training?

Take steps to make the training more engaging and accessible. It should not be dull or dense for staff. Instead, draw upon real-life examples and explain in practical terms how staff can implement good health and safety practices in their day-to-day work.

What happens if my business cannot eliminate a serious risk because it is part of its operations?

The business must take all reasonably practicable steps to mitigate the risk to workers. If your business cannot eliminate the risk (for instance, if the business’ machinery can be dangerous), take time to think about steps to make the process as safe as possible.

How can a business know if staff are following health and safety processes?

The easiest way is to check if staff are following processes and policies. For instance, are your staff wearing the protective gear they might need? You should also check with the staff themselves, particularly a health and safety representative.

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