When more bosses train, workplace accidents will fall
The most common question workers ask during our health and safety training programmes is: ‘How do I persuade my boss to implement these safety measures?’ If more bosses did the training, workers wouldn’t have to ask that question.
Apathy from some senior leaders may be a significant reason why deaths and accidents on New Zealand worksites have not reduced appreciably in the last few years, despite strict legislation.
Safety legislation passed in 2015 has not made a big difference. We still had one person dying a week in 2020, and that’s because legislation is a blunt instrument. A good health and safety culture starts at the top, but in our experience, there isn’t very much engagement from business leaders.
Participation in our senior leadership and management health and safety programmes – targeting SME business owners, general managers and directors – remains at less than five per cent and workers frequently worry about the lack of senior leadership engagement.
What can we as an industry do about it?
- Boss awareness
There are many health and safety awareness and communication programmes across worksites, but almost all target workers and health and safety representatives instead of their bosses.
A government health and safety communications campaign targeting bosses might make a difference.
- Make it law
Whilst the Health and Safety At Work Act 2015 stipulates training requirements for Health and safety representatives, there is no legal requirement for senior leadership and decision-makers to participate in specified health and safety training, but there should be.
Legislation is a blunt instrument, but maybe it is needed until the bosses can see for themselves the value of better understanding worksite health and safety. Some leaders must stop seeing health and safety as a cost and an inconvenience.
I personally would like senior leaders – business owners, general managers and directors – who take health and safety seriously enough to do the training, also act to influence other leaders to do the same.
I am a business leader. I know how hard and stressful it is at the top, but we are talking about making sure more people go home to their families at the end of the day. Of all your stresses, the last thing you want is an injury or fatality on your site – better understanding can make a difference.
Health and safety is high stakes for senior leadership these days. Recent New Zealand Police action targeting company earnings – using the Criminal Proceeds (Recovery) Act 2009 (CPRA) where a health and safety conviction has occurred – demonstrates that health and safety is also a bottom-line issue with severe consequences. The police did not succeed, but that doesn’t mean this risk will go away.
Protect your people, yourself and your business. Get more engaged with health and safety. Do the training. Your staff should not have to be the ones trying to convince you about what safety measures to take.