Health and Safety: The Small Business Effect

Health and Safety: The Small Business Effect

The new ‘Health and Safety at Work Act 2015’ has a significant impact on Small to Medium-Sized Businesses (SME-PCBUs) across the country. Unfortunately, the media coverage of information regarding the purpose of the new Act largely focuses on large, corporate businesses (C-PCBUs).

This information simply implies that the rule ‘Health and Safety only effects big corporates’ applies when 80% of businesses are SME-PCBUs. It’s this group that will have the greatest impact on reducing the workplace injury and death rate in New Zealand.

To achieve this, the language needs to be clearer regarding the expectations of SME-PCBUs. What this means is focusing on the SMEs using practical, common-sense language that relates to their everyday activities.

The current information portrayed in media advertising is easily dismissed by SMEs as ‘not being about us’, which is right in many ways. The focus for many SMEs is on doing what they do, meaning making products and supplying services each day that enables them to achieve their business needs.

The basics of wages and overheads are often top of the list for most SMEs. Compliance costs tend to fit lower in the order. However, like a tax, Health and Safety is a legislative requirement.

To do nothing is not an option. So how do SMEs fit HSWA in along with all the other calls on resources?

Utilising a Health and Safety organisation to deliver your Health and Safety program may seem to be the answer, but having it delivered doesn’t demonstrate ownership. It’s the ownership of the Health and Safety process and program that achieves the goal of having:

‘All people leave work at the end of the day, unharmed’.

Consultants, expert advisers or internet providers seem to be the method of choice, however, there are risks in these services. Consultants tend to be a range of people and companies who have staff with qualifications in Health and Safety. However, these qualifications were attained under the previous Health and Safety Act.

The previous Act was paper-based, and, as we now know, had little impact in achieving a safer workplace. Form writing, box-ticking and initialling ‘on the dotted line’ became a barrier, leading to poor understanding and decision making of some workers in the workplace. It could be argued it created more risk by trying to reduce common-sense and practical solution processes.

Expert advisers are specialists in giving advice, but what happens when this advice is outdated? What happens if the adviser takes away common-sense processes that workers use, that keeps them safe based on unquestioned advice?

The new Act is developed to allow a cultural shift in what is ‘old’ thinking and processes. But how can this occur in an SME if all they do is what they are told? The simple solution? A Health and Safety coach.

To put it simply, teams have players, captains and coaches. So, think of an SME as a team: the owner being the captain who directs and provides leadership for the players, actions the ‘game plan’ and changes the plan to achieve a better outcome, leading the team.

The players are the performers who make up the team and ‘do the business’. They have different skill sets, experience and desires.

The coach needs to know that they know the rules and, along with the captain and team, devise a game plan. They aren’t on the field but are available to guide and support the team to achieve the goals.

Implementing Health and Safety is much like that structure. It’s the team on the day that must work within the rules. It’s up to the team to understand the roles and responsibilities they have in achieving a positive outcome.

They understand the rules that are in place and that they need to adhere to them. They have the captain to draw upon to provide the direction and support required. The coach is on the sideline, available to guide when necessary and remind all the players of the rules when necessary. More importantly, they provide the framework for a team to build on.

A Health and Safety coach’s role fits this model exceptionally well. By providing the necessary rules, a framework for achievement, support in many facets of the game (business), but more importantly enabling the team ‘to do its thing’, practically and with a measure of common-sense.

The coach is not a web page or a notice board; they are the face of awareness. They must have a presence and be part of the team. The captain and team must own and implement the plan and celebrate the rewards.

The reward in a workplace is very simplepeople leave the field of play, ‘the workplace’, unharmed!

Are you a Small to Medium Business needing assistance with implementing your Health and Safety into your workplace? Contact Graham Roper Here to start the process

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