The New Zealand Health and Safety at Work Act 2015: A year on

Today (April 4, 2017) marks a year since the introduction of New Zealand’s new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and employees are beginning to see positive changes in their workplace.

A survey of 776 industry professionals conducted by Safeguard, has provided some insight into the changes the legislation has driven and the areas that still need addressing.

Main findings

  • Positively, 78% of respondents believe safety is taken seriously in their workplace, compared to 67% the previous year.
  • 72% said risks were being discussed with businesses sharing a work site which was a key requirement set out by the act.

While improvements were seen across the 15 areas discussed in the survey, there were some areas where figures remain low.

  • 48% of respondents felt that the health of workers is taken seriously compared to 78% when asked about safety
  • Only 47% were confident that no one would be harmed or made unwell by the activities carried out at their workplace
  • 54% felt that organisations view health and safety as a way to comply with the law rather than an opportunity to improve
  • Healthcare employees were 10% less optimistic in regards to health and safety improvements

Despite some improvement, the accident and fatality at work rate remain high across New Zealand and improvements have been slow to surface.

53% of respondents lacking confidence that no one would be harmed in their workplace, is a particularly worrying statistic. Not only does this indicate that employees lack confidence in the organisation’s health and safety policies, but this worry could affect employee health and productivity at work.

Health is a particularly relevant topic as wellbeing has often been put aside in the past to focus on practical safety. Yet stress and mental health issues are a major contributor to sick days and can even cause injuries and fatalities in the workplace. Equally, work-related ill health including musculoskeletal disorders and asbestos-related cancer, are a leading cause of workplace fatalities.

What should you be doing?

To tackle the issues revealed by the survey, businesses need to focus on creating a safety culture in the workplace. Risks need to be identified and addressed and employees need to be made aware of the changes and what is expected of them in order to work safely.

It is also important to remember all employees when considering health and safety at work. Remote and lone workers are sometimes overlooked particularly in regards to employee wellbeing. Yet the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, takes all employees into account from office-based and field staff to lone workers and even contractors and volunteers.

Safety at work is not only important to comply with legislation but it is good business. A safe work environment will create secure, productive employees, reduce sick days and avoid the costs associated with accidents and incidents.

To talk to us about how we can help you meet your obligations under the act, and improve the safety of your lone workers, get in touch below:

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