Safety rules: do yours need updating?

New Zealand companies need to do more to keep health and safety rules and policies clear and simple, and ensure staff understand them...

Safety rules: do yours need updating?

A recent survey of Auckland companies showed many had safety rules that were hard to understand – a timely finding, coming days after the New Zealand Government’s released its WorkingSafer blueprint, which aims to keep people safer at work.

Most of the 466 employees surveyed could not fully understand their company’s safety rules or accurately fill out hazard report forms.

“New Zealand’s workplace accident rate is high by international standards and part of the reason for this is inability to understand safety rules,” said BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil  O’Reilly.                                                                                                                             

“Having clear, simple, unambiguous language in safety policies and rules is a basic requirement.

“Testing to check whether employees understand the content of important company documents is also required, with remedial action taken if needed.”

He said companies may be simply copying into their safety documents the language contained in the Health & Safety in Employment Act.

“Care should be taken to ensure that safety policies and rules aren’t just a copy of part of the Act, but are clear, understandable directives that are consistent with the Act.”

Rachel Walker, national president of Human Resources Institute of New Zealand said it is imperative employers and employees are able to talk about safety as it all comes down to effective communication. “Employers should be asking questions to find out the most appropriate safety equipment – for example – if safety glasses that don’t suit the environment are provided, they might fog up, be uncomfortable, or make it difficult to do the task; employees would need to feel comfortable to have a conversation about that to resolve the issue.”

Angela Atkins, Auckland HRINZ Branch President and GM and head of training for Elephant said: “When Health and Safety isn’t likely to cause any serious accidents it gets pushed to the bottom of the list of things that SME owners or people managers have to do. As many companies are expecting managers and HR to deliver more with less, Health and Safety is one of those things that is seen as less important,” she said. “Taking H&S seriously has to come from the top down – so senior managers have to lead the way.”



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