Health & safety in the workplace is a key part of wellbeing
9th August 2023
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The most basic definition of wellbeing is ‘the state of being comfortable, healthy or happy’. Employers and employees alike will not achieve that state if they have doubts or concerns about health & safety (H&S) at work. Whether business owner or employee, everyone at a workplace should be able to return home to their family and friends at the end of their working day in good health.
Understanding the effort involved in creating safe and healthy work environments
Unfortunately creating a safe and healthy environment in the workplace isn’t as simple as flicking a switch. There is a lot to learn about everyone’s responsibilities in the workplace (yes, even workers have responsibilities), equipment, prevention, practices, procedures, training, legal implications and consequences etc. Fortunately there are some great organisations and resources available online for New Zealand workplaces to help guide us all on these topics. More on that below.
What is my Health & safety role and responsibility in a workplace?
To ensure you have the right perspective and seek the relevant information before diving into the resources, it is important to know what role you are in. Below we give a brief overview of three of the most common roles…which one are you?
Person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) – commonly this would be considered the “employer”, however there are a range of circumstances connected with this. While a PCBU may be an individual person (eg a sole trader) or an organisation, in most cases the PCBU will be an organisation.
A PCBU must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers, and that other people are not put at risk by its work. This is called the ‘primary duty of care’.
There are requirements of the PCBU that involve providing and maintaining a work environment without risks to health & safety; use, handling and storage of structures, equipment and material; access to welfare facilities (e.g. toilets, water); information, training & supervision; monitoring and reporting. By no means an extensive overview, hopefully this gives you some insight into the breadth of the scope of responsibilities a PCBU holds.
According to the worksafe.govt.nz website “An officer is a person who occupies a specified position or who occupies a position that allows them to exercise significant influence over the management of the business or undertaking. Organisations can have more than one officer”. It is important to note that this is not a health & safety manager, team leader or someone nominated to be a champion of H&S in the workplace (unless they happen to fall into the definition of significant influence as described on the worksafe website). There is a lot of due diligence expected to be carried out in this role and in many cases there is a legal liability involved.
A worker is an individual who carries out work in any capacity for a PCBU. This includes many classifications such as employee, contractor right through to sub-contractors, apprentices and trainees. As mentioned earlier, workers also have H&S obligations including the need to:
- take reasonable care for their own health and safety
- take reasonable care that what they do or do not do does not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons
- cooperate with any reasonable workplace health and safety policy or procedure that has been notified to workers
- comply, so far as reasonably able, with any reasonable instruction given by the PCBU
For more information on the roles and H&S responsibilities for each, visit the worksafe website. Equipped with this information about the roles and with a proactive mindset, you are one step closer to holding other people accountable for the responsibilities you believe they should be carrying out and fulfilling your own responsibilities.
Useful online resources about Health & Safety
Packed with information that is helpful for various H&S roles, this website includes legal and regulatory guidance as well as an A-Z index both ‘by industry’ and ‘by topic’s on things that need to be considered in different contexts. From ‘working at height’ through to relevant information for a manufacturing environment; it is very comprehensive. There are case studies, research and tools for practical help.
Provides similar resources to Worksafe website, however also provides an advisory service, extensive list of training courses, continued professional development and a professional membership.
This website is a directory of registered independent Health & Safety consultants managed by Health and Safety Association of New Zealand (HASANZ). It aims to provide a one stop shop for finding H&S advisors throughout New Zealand and the directory can be searched for free. For providers to be listed on the website, they must meet specified registration standards including evidence of qualifications.
Hopefully the information above will point you in the right direction, however if you would like to chat to us about Health & Safety concerns, we’ll do our best to guide you to the relevant resources.