The Health and Safety at Work Act: What is engagement?

The new legislation has a strong focus on worker engagement. A key aim is to foster a safety-conscious culture.

Do you have processes in place to engage with your workers? Did you know you also need processes to receive feedback from them regarding their health and safety concerns?

One of the intents of the coming Health and Safety at Work Act is to ensure each organisation has an environment whereby the workers can be part of the solution; working with the entity to identify hazards and risks and implement suitable controls.

The Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (or PCBU for short) is obliged to provide “meaningful opportunities” on a regular basis for workers to be kept informed and enable them to raise health and safety concerns, with the aim of keeping their workplace, those that come into contact with the workplace and each other, safe and well. This includes sharing relevant information in a timely manner and enabling the workers to contribute to the decision-making process regarding hazards and working conditions, facilities, and the appropriate training or supervision required to ensure the competence to work safely.

Engagement is a higher standard than consultation. It is more organic, in that true engagement allows problems to be defined and solutions to be tested together with the workers. The model of consultation, on the other hand, tends to see the employer defining the problem and coming up with a solution. Workers are able to comment on the proposed solution but, in part because they don’t have visibility over the perceived problem, their input may miss the mark.

The consultation model assumes the employer knows all the issues. But the lens on the organisation may be focused on meeting financial hurdles or ensuring the organisation remains competitive. The executive may not understand, or indeed have the skills to address, the impact of job design on a person’s health, for example. Changes to operating procedures may have inherent flaws that management may not be aware of and that impact adversely on health, safety and welfare.

Successfully engaging with your workers is likely to see some positive benefits for the organisation, such as a higher degree of loyalty and better productivity. Done well, it should support a safety-conscious culture, where working safely is simply the way things are done around here. Such a culture reduces compliance costs because the organisation tends to be self-regulating. It is more nimble in identifying and addressing concerns.

Not engaging with your workforce will attract fines.

As you prepare for the Act going live on 4 April this year, make sure you check you have effective worker engagement processes and that your culture supports constructive dialogue and reporting of concerns.

If you would like to know more about the PCBU’s and officer’s obligations under the new Act, be sure to attend an MCG seminar on 29 February 2016 at the Kingsgate in Garrett Ave. Register your attendance at info@majorconsulting.co.nz or phone 0800 44 00 70.

Shelley Major is a chartered director of the Institute of Directors and an accredited HR professional with the HR Institute of NZ. She is the managing director of Major Consulting Group which specialises in helping businesses to understand and meet their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.

This article was first published as an editorial in the Waikato Business News in February 2016.

Tags: , ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply