What is Health and Safety?
Health and Safety is not just about a whole lot of paperwork. It’s about making sure your staff go home safely at the end of the day.
It means carrying out an assessment of the hazards/risks in your workplace and putting controls in place to either get rid of the hazard altogether or reduce the risk of injury from the hazard.
For example, a grinding machine is needed on the shop floor, so the hazards can’t be eliminated. (The hazard is the machine itself and incorrect operation of the machine)
The controls might be:
• Ensure the tool is in safe working condition (mechanically and electrically)
• Make sure the guard is always in place
• Train the operator in safe use of the machine and process to be carried out
Why is Health and Safety important?
Health and safety can and does save lives!
It’s about putting the right procedures in place so everyone is as safe as they can be.
One of the difficulties in some work areas is deterioration of health over time. This can be through inhalation of toxic substances that affect the lungs (even staff in bakeries can be affected by fine particles, inhaled over long periods of time!). It’s important for the long term health of staff to address this type of issue.
One area that is of note recently is the inhalation of silica dust. Silica dust can be found in some bricks and tiles, sand, rock, gravel etc. When inhaled over a long period of time it can cause inflammation in the lung and even pulmonary fibrosis. It is important to take all measures for safe handling when working with this.
What are the Health and Safety legislations?
The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 outlines in detailed form the requirements for safe operation of your business.
It’s a legal document, but also practical in nature, especially the regulations.
Here's a bit more about the Act from the Worksafe website - Info on Health and Safety Work Act 2015
And a helpful presentation about the Act from Worksafe - HSWA Presentation
If you are having difficulty with how it “fits” your business, get the help of an experienced and qualified Health and Safety Adviser.
Can Health and Safety turn up unannounced at your workplace?
Yes, Health and safety (Worksafe) have the authority to turn up at your workplace unannounced.
They may do so especially if they suspect something is amiss safety wise, or they have received a report of unsafe operation at a particular workplace.
However this does not have to be a negative experience.
Click here for more info.
Does poor health and safety mean my business can be shut down?
The Regulator (WorkSafe) can require you to cease working, if the safety infringement is serious enough and endangers the health and safety of workers or others .
This would be not be usual though.
If anything is amiss, the health and safety officer would usually issue an improvement notice first. This requires changes to be made to improve a risky situation, within a certain period of time.
Check out Worksafe for more info on these.
Are Health and Safety policies legally enforcable?
A workplaces’ health and Safety policy (and practices) need to be compliant with the Health and Safety Act 2015, Respective Regulations and standard industry practice.
A health and safety policy in your workplace explains “This is how we carry out our Health and Safety Practices around here” If there is a major incident in your workplace, there needs to be a review as to whether the policy was being followed. If it was, why did the process fail?
If you end up in court over a major incident, the fact that your policy is robust, tested and reviewed regularly, would certainly go in your favour.