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Busting the health & safety myths

Updated: May 4, 2021


Three years on from the introduction of New Zealand’s Health and Safety at Work Act, we regularly come across small businesses who are not fully meeting the legal obligations placed on them by the legislation. More worryingly, many of these are in the Trade Industry.

The reasons given are many and varied. The five main barriers to compliance we come across regularly are:

  • the perceived high cost of compliance

  • the time needed to put processes and systems in place

  • lack of safety awareness or concern about the need for full compliance

  • complacency - “it won’t happen here”

  • poor contractor management.

A quick look at the ten fines imposed on building/construction and manufacturing companies for breaches in the last quarter of 2018 show fines ranging from $3,000 to $371,000. The average fine imposed was a whopping $169,400!

If you are failing in your health & safety (H&S) legal obligations as a business, it’s clear you are putting both your people and your business at significant risk.

Worksafe’s evidence suggests SME’s are less safe than larger businesses. Having great H&S practices is just part of having a great business. Depending on what you are already doing about H&S, it’s not as hard, expensive or time-consuming as you might think. So let’s bust some myths and look at the simple steps you can take as a small business to reduce your health and safety risk.

The cost of compliance is expensive/prohibitive, right?

Not at all. If you are struggling to understand exactly what you need to do there is plenty of help out there from health and safety specialists that doesn’t require you to break the bank. For example, Cinch HR has partnered with Kiwi Worksafe and offer a couple of cost effective and no fluff compliant options. A self-service H&S toolkit that gives you all the tools you need to manage it yourself is just $695 plus GST per year. For the cost of $1,500 plus GST per year you can have the full Cinch HR H&S service including an online H&S management and support system, whereby you can really say you have ‘Nailed it’!

We are too busy doing the work to worry about H&S processes and systems.

A simple annual plan will set you on the way to peace of mind around the safety of your employees, contractors, sub-contractors, visitors, customers and other people who could be affected by your work. And by involving your workers in implementing the plan and improving your H&S practices on an ongoing basis you share the workload. Start by getting them to assess the hazards and risks in your business and how to manage them on a daily basis.

But we are a low risk business and our guys know how to stay safe at work.

Your H&S plan ensures everyone in the business knows exactly what is expected of them and doesn’t leave H&S to chance. It allows you to set measurable targets, run regular safety training and keep accurate records. And then H&S really does become a core part of your work culture.

We never have accidents here. We are low risk!

H&S is not just about avoiding obvious physical accidents. Some machinery can cause harm over a period of time if not ergonomically set up for example. Have you considered all your environmental hazards such as poor lighting or working in extreme temperatures, or any hazardous substances your people work with? Then there are the less visible issues – biological hazards or social hazards like stress and bullying. Prevention is better than cure.

I can’t control what our contractors do. H&S is their responsibility.

The Health and Safety at Work Act places H&S duties on any person conducting a business or undertaking (known as PCBU’s). This includes both a business entity as well as sole traders and self-employed workers. This means if you are working with contractors and sub-contractors you each have overlapping responsibilities and duties. Businesses must consult, cooperate and coordinate activities with all other businesses they share overlapping duties with. This includes agreeing common safety goals and project-wide initiatives, identifying hazards and agreeing respective roles and responsibilities and how best to control each hazard.

The benefits from managing your contractors proactively include better planning and communication which will ultimately make those work projects more efficient. And who doesn’t want that?

What is important is that you treat H&S as part of your day-to-day business processes and manage it proportionately to the level of risk involved in your work. Obviously the greater the risks you have, the more vigilant you need to be.

Want to know more? Check out our Health & Safety Toolkit package options or contact us directly if you would like more comprehensive advice and support to get you started.



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