If you’re running a business, unsafe work can have a significant impact on your people, the environment you operate in and ultimately your business performance. Safe and healthy workplaces make sense. Unfortunately, New Zealand doesn’t have a great track record in this area. The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 was introduced to shift our cultural mindset, so all Kiwis can go to work and come home safe at the end of the day.
We spoke with Julian Hughes, General Manager of HSSE at Z Energy about how Kiwi businesses can create a culture of health and safety. Z’s people work in a variety of environments across New Zealand from corporate offices, to forecourts, quarries, farms, and even their own biodiesel plant.
Six tips to create a culture of health and safety in any business:
1. Lead from the top
Your commitment to health and safety needs to be a genuine and visible belief that you stand behind every day. It needs to come from the top, from the person or people responsible for the business and it needs to be regularly reinforced and supported by everyone in the business. Z has clearly articulated to its team what they stand for in health and safety. Because people and the environment matter at Z, their health and safety matters too! The bottom line is to create a culture where health and safety is not separate, but integrated into why you exist as a business and the way you do things.
2. Set high standards
Being mediocre in this space doesn’t cut it. People’s lives and livelihoods are at stake, including your business. Don’t be afraid to set high standards. How high is high? Z’s standards are zero harm to people and the environment. It may sound lofty but as far as they’re concerned it’s not only doable, but vital to who they are. Once you've set your standards, articulate what this means for your business, your expectations and how you'll manage competing priorities to uphold them.
3. Have a plan and work towards it
Clearly outline what you're trying to do and how you'll get there. Your plan could be a formal written strategy, or it could be as simple as saying, “This year we’re going to find ways to discuss and improve health and safety every day”. No matter how you do it, the plan should set the tone for health and safety to become a visible part of your culture. If you decide to write your plan down, check out the WorkSafe guide on how to write health and safety documents. Once you've got your plan, work with your team on a regular basis to achieve it and don’t forget to monitor your success on an ongoing basis.
4. Identify the risks specific to your business
You need to know what could harm your team and your particular environment. It’s likely that there will be different sources of risk at any one time. Z have a series of questions they call 5W1H, which you can use to identify risks:
What could go wrong?
Where could it happen?
Who would it impact and to what extent?
Why could it happen?
When would it happen (in time or in a process)?
How is it being controlled?
5. Manage critical risks first
Often it can seem overwhelming to be managing all of the risks all of the time. Make your job easier by focusing attention on critical risks first and the controls needed to prevent them. When considering if something is creating a significant risk, ask yourself and your team 'do we have to do it this way?'. Then, work backwards from here to look at lesser risks.
6. Engage and respect your people
It’s people who make work safe. Engage the people in your team who are exposed to the risks. Not only do they have a right to be involved, they'll often know exactly what's going on and how to manage the risks better than anyone. If things do go wrong, remember that no one comes to work to get hurt. Humans make mistakes. A simple approach is not to blame people but seek to understand why they made the choices they did and figure out what you can do to assist them to make the right choices next time.