SafePlus is a new, voluntary health and safety performance improvement toolkit for Kiwi businesses. Malcolm MacMillan explains how it is set to lift health and safety in workplaces across the country.
It is a challenging and exciting time in New Zealand business. We are seeing a change in the way workers want to be engaged – they want to participate and help form the ‘way things are done around here’.
SafePlus’s unique approach addresses this culture and behaviour change – allowing front line workers and senior leaders work together to strive towards better health and safety in the workplace.
The story behind SafePlus
SafePlus is a joint initiative developed by WorkSafe New Zealand, ACC and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
New Zealand has a high rate of serious workplace incidents – one of the highest in the OECD. In 2013, the Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety recommended that the Government introduce a new voluntary health and safety initiative to help combat this.
The social and economic cost of people being hurt and killed in our workplaces is huge, and conservatively estimated at $3.5 billion each year.
A comprehensive design and testing process was undertaken, which included a 2016 pilot with 95 businesses across seven different sectors, and a wide ranging review of international health and safety practices and harm prevention initiatives. During this process it became increasingly clear that there was a need for this product to be different from existing health and safety compliance audit products in the market.
In response, WorkSafe, ACC and MBIE began what is now known as SafePlus – with the aim to contribute to the Government commitment to reducing workplace injuries and fatalities by 25% by 2020.
How SafePlus works
SafePlus is a practical toolkit designed to improve businesses’ health and safety performance – and ultimately reduce New Zealand’s workplace health and safety statistics.
It is made up of 10 performance requirements fundamental to achieving good health and safety practice. These are organised into three core areas: leadership, worker engagement and risk management – which are all underpinned by an ongoing commitment to improve. A business’s health and safety performance is assessed against a three level maturity scale of Developing, Performing or Leading.
SafePlus consists of three separate products – businesses can use one, or use them all; there’s Resources and Guidance, the Independent Onsite Assessment and Advisory Service (both available now), and the Online Self-Assessment tool (available mid 2018).
The Assessment approach
Understanding what people feel and think and how they behave is important for assessors to get a complete picture of a business’s health and safety performance.
SafePlus is not a paper-based audit of a business’s compliance with legislation, management system or quality assurance standards, and steers clear of relying solely on written policies and procedures.
SafePlus uses a behavioural, evaluative assessment approach for the Onsite Assessment and Advisory Service. SafePlus Accredited Assessors are trained to understand this behavioural and evaluative approach. The behavioural approach includes a deep dive assessment where Assessors engage with workers at all levels of the business – from the board and senior leadership, to front line workers and key contractors. This approach enables Assessors to identify perception and reality gaps within a health and safety system and to provide tailored advice and best practice guidance to help the business improve.
To do this Assessors interview and hold informal chats with workers and ask open questions to gain thorough insight into the health and safety practices and behaviours within a business. The interviews happen in ways that encourage openness, engagement and participation. Assessors identify and diagnose behaviours and attitudes across a business, listen to see if responses are consistent, and look to reconfirm findings elsewhere.
For Assessors, understanding why things are working well is just as important as finding out what is not working well.
SafePlus’s flexibility is a key point of difference to audit compliance products because its approach enables businesses to respond to issues as they emerge, instead of sticking to a rigid assessment path. By understanding a business’s practices, behaviours, attitudes, perceptions and culture, Assessors can get to the heart of health and safety.
Worker engagement, participation and the guidance and advice Assessors provide are paramount to lifting health and safety standards in New Zealand so this approach is a great leap forward.
“SafePlus, with its focus on top-to-bottom workplace engagement, is a good opportunity for us to put workers at the forefront of health and safety, and by doing so, we can uncover some of the real health and safety issues in our businesses.” – Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety, and ACC, Iain Lees-Galloway.
So what are the benefits of SafePlus?
SafePlus will help contribute towards a safer, healthier and more productive New Zealand workforce by reducing workplace injury. While there’s no direct financial incentive for businesses to take up SafePlus, its benefits are arguably greater than historic audit-focused health and safety products:
- Its unique, collaborative approach will help reduce the likelihood of workers having accidents and injuries and show them that their employer cares about health and safety; giving them peace of mind that they are valued and looked after in the organisation.
- It can boost a business’s reputation as an “employer of choice” as well as assist in retaining qualified and experienced workers. These factors could contribute to an increase in productivity and profitability.
- It provides an independent and qualified view of a business’s current health and safety performance, followed with tailored guidance and advice to support.
- It shows leadership in health and safety within industry and wider community.
To truly lift health and safety standards in New Zealand, it is important all workers participate and are committed – it just makes good business sense.
Think of SafePlus as a key part of your business strategy.
Malcolm MacMillan is the SafePlus programme manager. To find out more about SafePlus, or to hire a SafePlus Accredited Assessor, visit www.safeplus.nz