New Zealand’s new health and safety legislation will become law in April 2016.

Unfortunately there are still numerous businesses (PCBU’s under the new legislation) that cannot say with confidence that they are compliant under the current legislation let alone the new. Are you one?

Health and safety is everyone’s responsibility, therefore, systems and procedures should be developed to provide a structure by which health and safety can be managed in an organisation.

One internationally recognised process for implementing this is the Plan, Do Check, Act (PDCA) system.

This approach achieves a balance between the systems and behavioural aspects of management. It also treats health and safety management as an integral part of good management generally, rather than as a stand-alone system.

The PDCA cycle is something you may need to go round more than once if you are first starting out in implementing a health and safety management system, delivering a new process/service, or implementing a change.

Plan

Top level management commitment is required for good reason; without it, implementation of your health and safety management system won’t be as successful and neither will the results. However, don’t overlook the importance of engaging the entire workforce. Whether it is reducing the likelihood of accidents in the workplace or a fresh challenge, consider what would motivate them.

Consider where you are now compared to where you need to be, based on legal requirements and benchmarking i.e. ACC WSMP accreditation. You will then need to decide what action will need to be taken to reach the point.

The entire planning process should be documented, with clarity on who will be responsible for what, how success will be measured and the expected timescales.

AS/NZ4801 Occupational Health & Safety Management System provides generic assistance for establishing, implementing or improving an occupational health and safety management system. There are also numerous guides and handbooks available.

Do

Now is the time to assess the risks, identifying what could cause harm, to who and how. This is then followed by what you will do to manage the risks.
Ultimately, you must decide what the priorities are and identify the biggest risks. It’s worth noting that the standard is pragmatic – it uses the words ‘reasonably practicable,’ meaning action is not expected if it would be grossly disproportioned in terms of cost, time or trouble.

Simply walking around the workplace with a pen and clipboard isn’t an effective way of achieving engagement from colleagues. You should look to involve workers, communicate why you’re implementing this methodology and openly discuss issues, inviting feedback with an aim to develop positive attitudes.
Especially within bigger companies, colleagues can help bring to light less obvious issues and easy ways of rectifying them. This could involve ensuring people have the right tools to do the job, keeping machines well maintained or holding refresher training to ensure people remain competent.

Check

Plans are all very well, but it’s important that these plans are then implemented. How are you doing against your aims? Are those new ideas working? An internal audit is therefore necessary to ensure things are going well.

If accidents or ‘near misses’ are still happening, it’s important to find out why these were missed at the Plan and Do stages and – of course – a resolution needs to be found.

Act

By now, you should know if your system is effective in managing risk and protecting staff. Learn from accidents and incidents, ill-health data, errors and relevant experience, including from other organisations similar to your own.

If you do find any issues, the next step is to take action – the reaction somewhat shows how effective engagement has been, as it’s likely you will need a response from management and workforce alike. Plans, policy documents and risk assessments may need updating accordingly.

When it comes to achieving your goal i.e. WSMP accreditation, internal audits are an ongoing requirement. It is therefore wise to go over the more problematic issues more regularly to both reduce risk and ensure your annual audit, whether undertaken internally or by an external body, goes well.

If you have any queries or questions concerning your current health and safety management system, or wish to speak to a health and safety professional, email enquiries@triex.co.nz