The New Zealand Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA) provides a great opportunity for businesses to revisit their health and safety processes, culture and responsibilities. If you’re unsure if your business meets the new requirements, the following checklist is a good indicator. To make it even simpler, we’ve broken the checklist down into the three main areas which seem to be causing the most concern – due diligence, engagement and evidence. If you’re based outside of New Zealand, this checklist will still be useful as a measure of your progress.
1. Health and safety is viewed as an investment, not a cost and there is visible evidence of financial investment in this area.
Does your organisation visibly commit funds to health and safety improvements? It is no longer enough to simply have a Health and Safety Committee. Truly successful organisations understand the value of a safe working environment and will commit the necessary funds to make this happen.
2. There is visible commitment from leaders at all levels in the organisation. Everyone in the organisation is meaningfully involved in health and safety. Managers spend time on the shop floor, offices or sites where their people are.
A successful health and safety culture begins from the top with the values displayed by an organisation’s leaders. Great safety leaders “walk-the-talk” by spending time out where their people are – be it the factory floor, an office or onsite – and familiarising themselves with the challenges faced by those people every day. Everyone in the organisation is encouraged to take responsibility for safety in their working environment – to be pro-active in identifying hazards, notifying and reporting these. Regardless of their job title, everyone in an organisation is viewed as a health and safety leader. Is this true of your organisation?
3. Regular recognition and rewards for positive safety behaviours – celebrate!
There’s nothing quite like recognition that you’ve done your job well. Promoting a positive safety culture by recognising and rewarding behaviours which display a commitment to health and safety is an excellent way to reinforce the value of these behaviours both to the organisation and the employees. Does your organisation celebrate the positives?
4. A positive response from management to safety issues which are raised.
A safety issue is an opportunity for improvement, and those managers and supervisors working in a company with a strong health and safety culture acknowledge this. No-one in an organisation should be afraid to raise a query or report an issue, and they should see that all issues are treated seriously by those in leadership roles. Do people in your organisation receive a positive response when they point out a safety or health issue or suggest an improvement?
5. The organisation is prepared to make major changes if needed.
Sometimes the only way to become an organisation who has a great health and safety culture is to make sweeping changes. The leadership team need to be seen to be prepared to take widespread action to make the organisation a better place in terms of health and safety practices. Can you imagine your organisation making big health and safety changes?
6. All employees throughout the organisation need to be informed – and need to show that they understand – health and safety.
Just as an employee should be competent in the tasks of their day job, so they should also be competent when it comes to health and safety. An organisation who implements a company-wide health and safety certification program for all employees is one which will have a better health and safety culture. Is two-way communication around health and safety the norm in your organisation?
7. Employees do more than just follow the rules. They suggest the rules.
Actively engaged employees will use their initiative to suggest new ideas and projects to enhance health and safety. They’ll be more productive, and if they’re properly recognised and rewarded (refer point 3 above) they’ll contribute to the overall health, safety and well-being of an organisation. When was the last time you saw one of your co-workers suggest a new health and safety idea?
8. If your employees feel safe and valued their job satisfaction will be higher.
Employee retention and engagement is a hot topic for all organisations worldwide. For many people, the benefit of feeling valued in non-financial areas generates higher job satisfaction and more positive feelings towards the company. Employees want to feel safe in their working environment and more and more they are looking for companies who demonstrate care for their well-being. Engaged employees will be more committed to maintaining an environment of health and safety for all. Do you feel valued and safe with your current organisation?
9. Employees are encouraged to report safety issues to their supervisors and feel comfortable doing so.
Do the employees in your organisation feel comfortable reporting a safety issue to their supervisors? Do they see that their concerns are acted upon consistently?
10. Leaders are not only managers.
Regardless of their job title, all employees in the organisation should be encouraged to be leaders. Empowering them with the necessary resources and authority to find and fix safety and health problems as they see them is key. Do you have this authority within your organisation?
11. Safety is king.
Does your organisation ensure that there is no competition between any other process and safety? Safety is always paramount because safety always comes back to your people and how they are valued. Employees instinctively know when their safety is not considered as the number one priority and respond accordingly.
12. Your organisation has a proactive approach to improvement.
Does your organisation actively identify issues before they become costly problems or injuries? Safety leaders proactively find, identify and document risk factors and put control factors in place before a serious problem can occur – they do not simply react.
13. Regular communication on health and safety topics.
Three simple words – communication, communication, communication. The main way to empower people in your organisation is to ensure they are informed. Regular updates increase awareness of safety and allow the transfer of knowledge. Documenting the process is a great way to make sure it is done regularly. Do you regularly see communications about health and safety?
14. The first agenda item for every meeting should be health and safety.
Does your organisation stress that the first order of business at any internal meeting should be a couple of minutes on safety learnings? If it doesn’t, it’s sending a message that health and safety is not really a high priority.
15. Regular, detailed audits of the health and safety program
Do you have an external auditor who views your health and safety program, reflects on your communications and delivers an honest and open report on how you’re really doing? Organisations with a strong health and safety culture welcome the opportunity to show how well they are doing and don’t simply rely on internal checks to verify the success of their programs!
16. There are no secrets.
Does your organisation firmly believe in complete transparency for any incidents which occur? Integrity of reporting, even when it reflects negatively on the organisation, is vital for an organisation which desires a strong health and safety culture.
17. Safety issues are treated as urgent and important.
Does your safety process prioritise issues and deal with them in a timely and efficient manner? Are hazards identified and controls put in place within a reasonable time period? Allowing safety issues to slip and letting them take longer than necessary to be completed are indications that your company is no longer fully committed to health and safety.
BONUS ROUND! If your organisation can also check these, you’re well ahead of the game!
There is a clear definition of the culture the organisation wishes to achieve.
Has your organisation set clear, measurable health and safety goals with a defined time frame? It sounds so simple, yet many companies who are committed to health and safety miss this step. Make sure your company has developed a plan that includes a clear definition of what your health and safety culture looks like.
There is a concrete definition of what success in a health and safety culture looks like for your organisation.
Is everyone in the organisation aware of the goals which have been set? Are they measurable so that you know exactly what success looks like?
If you’ve answered yes to the bulk of these questions, it’s likely your organisation is tracking well towards a sound health and safety culture. If the answer to more than half of these questions was a no or a not sure, perhaps you can use this list to start a conversation with your managers and leaders. Either way, contact BraveGen to see how we can help you make it all easier!
Do you think we’ve missed any indicators off this list? Let us know below in the comments!