The goal of the Health and Safety at Work Act is to ensure that everyone gets home safely. This Act replaces the Health and Safety in Employment Act. The Act aims to shift the focus of keeping people safe from – a system that can be opted out of – ‘not my responsibility’ to a communicate, co-ordinate and co-operate system whereby safety is ‘everyone’s responsibility’. The other key takeaway, is the Act isn’t prescriptive. It tells you what needs to be done but not how to do it. This is a positive thing as it allows industries and workplaces to create systems that best suit themselves, thus increasing participant buy-in.
The major focus on the Act is one of Risk Assessment.
It is important to manage your most serious risks first, putting paper cuts and one end, and death at the other. If you are on a worksite and two risks you have identified are sunburn and crush injuries. By all means hand out the sunscreen and make sure people use them, but, the most serious risk is crush injuries and that is the one that you should focus on first.
Where there is guidance is established ways of operating – use these. For example in Scaffolding and Guarding. Work Safe is working towards increasing it’s guidance. Otherwise work with a qualified professional ie a Chartered Professional Engineer, to use first principals to create a plan.
All of the people and organisations in this, must work together. Businesses should do this because it is good for business. The 5 key concepts above link together how this should happen.
1- Business Responsibilities
A new concept in the Act is that of the PCBU – Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking. This change is designed to capture all types of modern working relationships. It includes businesses that are commercial and non-commercial in nature as well as sole traders. Workplaces have a duty of care, not just to people that they directly employ, but to others such as customer, suppliers and the public as far as reasonably practicable.
2 – Senior Business Leaders
These are the CEO’s, Directors or a person who holds a very senior leadership position, and has the ability to significantly influence the management of a Business or Undertaking. Officers must do due diligence to make sure the business understands and manages its key risks › They must: – keep up-to-date knowledge of health and safety – understand the operations of their business – ensure and check that their business has appropriate resources and processes for health and safety.
Aim is that they must understand and manage the risk. It is no longer a case of see no evil, hear no evil, you must now be proactive. It will not necessarily be seen as a breach of The Act isn’t looking for these people to be 24/7 involved in the day to day business, it is more about looking at risk profiles
3 – Working with other Businesses, overlapping duties
When the work of two or more businesses overlap, they must consult, co-operate and co-ordinate activities to meet their health and safety responsibilities to workers and others.
When planning, consider the stages of work and that the risks can change throughout the process, so make sure that you check in when the process changes. Also consider the Health and Safety supply chain and how to integrate it. For example if you are designing or supplying a machine – how are you going to guard it, maintain it, clean it. The advantage for businesses when doing this is that you are likely to come up with more efficient solutions in terms of cost and sustainability.
4 – Workers and Others in the Workplace
A worker is someone that carries out work in any capacity in the workplace. It includes employees, contractors, apprentices and volunteers. Others include visitors, customers and other members of the public.
Take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of others – Follow any reasonable health and safety instructions given to them by the business › and Workers must: – Co-operate with any reasonable business policy or procedure relating to health and safety in the workplace. Or put simply – follow instructions, take reasonable care and cooperate.
5 Worker engagement and Participation
It is extremely important that workers are engaged with and participate in keeping their workplaces safe and that their views on safety matters are asked for and taken into account. Workplaces should have clear and ongoing ways for workers to suggest improvements and on a day-to-day basis. The advantage of businesses doing this is that engaged employees are less likely to leave, reducing staff turnover and increasing productivity.