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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard Magazine

State of the nation

PETER BATEMAN analyses the results from Safeguard’s fourth annual State of the Nation survey, followed by a selection of respondents’ most effective or satisfying interventions.

With just over 1200 respondents this was the biggest survey so far, and our thanks go to the various membership bodies – unions, employer groups, practitioner organisations – which graciously allowed us to piggyback the survey onto their own communications.

Thanks too to WorkSafe NZ, which included the survey within one of its regular e-newsletters.

As always, the survey is restricted to three categories of respondent, who all answer the same set of questions. The categories are:

  • • 
    H&S practitioners (including occupational health nurses);
  • • 
    H&S representatives; and
  • • 
    Business owners/senior executives.

The trend this year is negative overall. Respondents clearly feel things have slipped back a bit, with 12 of the 15 indicator questions showing a slightly worse result than last year. (To calculate the table – see next page – we aggregate the percentage of those who responded to questions with “Strongly Agree” and “Agree”.)

In particular, responses to all of the questions relating to a respondent’s own workplace (or, in the case of consultants, their overall view of their clients’ workplaces) have gone backwards over the year.

The one bright spot is that health and wellbeing is on a rising trend: 51.9% of respondents thought it is taken seriously, a rise of 1.8%. Business owners/execs – an influential group – were particularly positive on this one, with 66.3% saying health is taken seriously, a rise of more than ten percentage points over 2018.

However, while 75.9% of respondents reckon NZ’s H&S performance is improving, this is a fall of 7.5 points from last year, and is the lowest value for this question of any of the four surveys to date.

(Disclosure: we have fixed an error that appeared in our reports of previous surveys regarding people’s experience with WorkSafe. Previous reports showed a marked difference between the overall value – around 68 to 72% – and the much lower values attributed to individual respondent groups. The editor is attending a remedial Year 9 statistics class.)

The advent of the HASANZ Register has not yet had any impact on how H&S practitioners are regarded, with approvals still hovering in the low sixties.


H&S practitioners are noticeably gloomy about NZ’s overall H&S performance improving, with a drop from 80.8% to 69.2% between 2018 and 2019.

For H&S reps, the biggest change is in the response to the crunchiest question of all: are you confident no one in your workplace will be harmed? This fell 11 points, from 56.3 to 46.2%.

Business owners/senior managers have always returned the sunniest results, and in one of the few results better than last year, their response to the same crunch question is up nearly seven points, to 59.4%. Alarmingly, their response to the last question – about discussing H&S with other PCBUs on site – is down by nearly 12 points, to 66.8%.


Respondents were presented with nine options and asked to select only one as their biggest H&S challenge over the next 12 months. As in earlier years, Culture (19.5%) took out first place, but Health risk (15.4%) has nearly caught perennial second-place Contractors/other PCBUs (15.8%).

Of least concern were Incident reporting (6.2%), Risk assessment (6.9%), and Compliance (7.0%).

State of the Nation 2019
 2016 (N=786)2017 (N=776)2018 (N=905)2019 (N=1205)Difference from 20182019 – practitioners (N=522)2019–reps (N=490)2019 – business owners/execs (N=193)
In NZ the safety of workers is taken seriously67.177.779.677.5-2.172.878.089.1
In NZ the health & wellbeing of workers is taken seriously42.548.
NZ’s H&S performance is improving78.282.083.475.9-7.569.281.080.8
The H&S regulator WorkSafe NZ is performing well56.760.563.861.3-2.556.365.364.3
In the last 12 months my experience with WorkSafe has been satisfactory68.272.470.767.1-3.665.668.369.0
Organisations in NZ view H&S as an opportunity to improve, not just comply40.345.643.143.60.536.349.051.3
An organisation that manages H&S well is more likely to be successful91.994.391.092.51.595.690.888.6
In my experience most H&S professionals are competent63.360.863.361.6-1.755.268.661.1
H&S has improved at my workplace over the last 12 months78.
In my workplace workers are involved in identifying risks and making decisions about how to control them81.986.083.680.9-2.779.178.891.4
In my workplace when a worker raises a H&S issue his or her views are heard by management83.
I am confident no one at my workplace will be harmed or made unwell as a result of activities in my workplace44.747.346.744.8-1.938.246.259.4
In my workplace staff are regularly asked for input into how H&S is managed75.380.375.873.2-2.670.770.587.2
In my workplace senior managers and/or board members regularly ask questions about H&S70.977.372.168.3-3.867.761.586.6
In my workplace we discuss H&S risk with other businesses which share our site62.972.267.364.0-3.368.757.866.8

Q: Over the last year, what was the single most effective or satisfying thing you did in health & safety?

An edited selection of replies from survey respondents.


Completed Grad Dip OSH.

Significant increase in HSE involvement from previously uninterested business units.

Attended a HOP course as a precursor to rolling out an approach to safety focused on employee engagement.

Started to get people thinking about care over compliance.

Introduced a H&S app that all employees can use.

Got my team to take ownership and fully understand the why of H&S.

We have had a negligible incidence of accidents over our 40 years. The imposition of all the new regulations has just added considerable cost, with no real or perceived benefit.

Translating H&S meetings from English to Tagalog.

Asked workers their views on H&S, listened, and implemented some of their solutions.

Becoming ISO9001, 14001 and 45001 accredited.

Spoke up about the need for a single national standard process for companies that audit H&S. The cost of all the different types of audit is a burden on our business and a form of extortion.

Developed a bespoke lightning tracker to warn staff of approaching storms. Significant due to the nature of our work.

Recruited a consultant who told us we were on the right track and didn’t give us an unachievable list. Made us feel confident.

Achieved 1.5m hours worked without an LTI.

Used risk assessments to find the real risks (eg: driving).

Improved employee buy-in, shown by increased reporting and people raising questions and concerns.

Ergonomic redesign of our process.

Implemented health monitoring for everyone.

Through consultation with everyone concerned, got buy-in to an unpopular but necessary change addressing a site-wide hazard. And it’s stuck.

Oversaw the removal of a number of health risks in our premises.

Appointed a full-time H&S manager.

Bought newer, safer equipment.

Made H&S an OK topic to openly discuss, without derision or division.

Identified our critical risks and audited the business to assess how controlled they were.

Cross-pollinated communications with leaders from other PCBUs in our work place.


Launched awareness of mental health and wellbeing risk and a group to implement it into the business.

Plain English documents.

Turning on the safety switch in people’s heads – the moment they understand what we are trying to achieve.

Ensured a no-blame reporting culture and saw reporting drastically increased.

Changed the minds of our leaders to not only tick-the-box comply but to actively engage, support and empower our workers.

Actively coached leaders and supervisors to re-focus on H&S.

Developed working groups on fatigue management, critical risks, emergency response, permit to work, change management and saw worker engagement improve accordingly.

Making an impact on people through our wellbeing programme and seeing attitudes start to change and injury rates decline.

Created H&S reps that represent each unit correctly, which has given a voice to the workers.

Moved away from behaviour-based safety to focus on process improvement as a means to improve H&S performance.

Taught the organisation to treat its staff like assets, not commodities, and that it is human to make mistakes.

Developed an emergency response plan for the business and ensured our remote workforce has personal alarms.

After ten months in the role I have managed to disrupt the status quo on how H&S is done.

Drove forums with contractor organisations, reducing focus on paperwork and allowing people to meet to talk about risk.

Saw more engagement with people rather than more paperwork.

Getting H&S out from underneath HR.

Reporting issues and then sticking to my guns in following up with senior management. Made enough noise to get noticed and get tangible action.

Created a five-year health and wellbeing strategy with my previous employer, and with current employer improved risk management processes.

Reduced the amount of hazardous substances and replaced an LPG-powered forklift with a battery one.

Added “Switch your brain on and think” to our site and staff inductions, creating the best ever conversations with new contractors and employees.

Convinced a start-up company they really did need to have a H&S process in place.

Increased reporting of near misses by 14,300% (yes, I checked the maths) in a large business that had no idea what a near miss was or why to report it.

Launched a new free H&S app and have getting great feedback from our clients.

Improved attendance at our monthly all-staff H&S meetings from 55% to 95% because the best way to communicate expectations is face-to-face.

Got the H&S reps to run the H&S committee and got agreement from their managers to allow time off the floor to do H&S stuff.

Getting workers to trust me.

Measured the effectiveness of critical risk controls across the business and recommended improvements.

Assisted workers with work and non-work injuries back to recovery and full duties.

Attended the AGM of the Agricultural Leaders H&S Action Group and saw its potential to make a real improvement to the culture of the agricultural sector.

Enabling staff to freely access a confidential location to offload workplace concerns and present them to H&S anonymously.

Changed my attitude to look for the positive – how workers already make things work – rather than looking for how they can improve. Did away with “safety first”! Now we present management with what the workers need to get the job done. If something goes wrong we look at the system not the person. Not all managers are on board yet but I love a challenge!

Developed a new H&S practitioner who is contracted to our company and specialises in high-risk tasks, coaching and mentoring contractors and crew managers in felling and breaking out.

Changing attitudes in my clients’ workforces: the safety of work vs the work of safety.

Introduced a lessons management system to learn from our incidents.

Replaced old plant and equipment, knowing the safety circuits and controls are far superior.

Built the culture to create conversations that have never been dreamt of before in this organisation.

Challenged WorkSafe regarding their poor level of consistency between branches and the gap between their policy and observed inspector behaviour.

Helping managers to understand why involving workers is vital to improving H&S performance.

Got the CEO to agree to health monitoring, two years after raising it.

Introducing management to the idea that mental health is an issue in our organisation.

Introduced learning teams and the fundamentals of Safety Differently.

Heard senior management discuss the importance of overlapping duties with our hiring PCBU!

Investigated a notifiable incident. Commitment to implementing the recommendations prevented a prosecution.

In a mindset shift, I decided that annual medicals are not a chore but an awesome opportunity to connect, discover and improve lives.

Applied an effective H&S management system into a horticultural contracting business and had active input into the harvest season, a high risk area often overlooked.

Speaking up about the organisation’s poor attitude towards H&S.

Shared my passion with a fantastic team of H&S reps and encourage them to spread the message.

In a new role, significantly improved relations with managers and workers so that H&S now seen as adding value rather than blindly policing their work when they are the subject matter experts.

Removed Zero Harm as a target.

Prevented a staff member from committing suicide.

Increased awareness of risk and harm to workers, so that when workers are concerned they stop work, a powerful motivation to management to better assess risks in advance.

Reviewed traffic management on our site, reducing risk from potentially catastrophic to low. Awesome to get feedback from staff on how well it is working.

Got senior managers in a large organisation to understand that occupational health is not the same as “wellbeing” and needs to be managed with the same rigour as safety.

Trained 120 mental health first-aiders.

Wrote a submission to highlight that psychosocial risks are some of the most challenging in the modern workplace.


Helped officers fill in the H&S Tracker when they didn’t know how to use it.

Halted an unsafe work practice with the assistance of my union.

Successfully held our first expo to promote health and wellness to staff.

Empowered people to invest in their own wellbeing.

Stood up to senior management by refusing to take down a fire exit sign. No one should ask an employee to break the law and get shitty when that person will not risk the lives of others.

The team stopped looking at H&S as a joke within our own office and as over the top on sites that we project manage. Our culture began to shift.

Explained to trainees the importance of our reporting culture and how important their fresh eyes are for our hazards.

Implemented a phone-accessible list of incidents and H&S concerns to be the starting point for H&S agenda items at monthly ops meetings. Ensures concerns reach those who need to hear them.

Got air con into our health units where medications were melting due to the intense heat in the clinics.

Trialled a learning process arising from a non-injury incident arising from working on water.

Called out a manager for deliberately altering a H&S directive from senior management so that she could reduce her workload.

Undertook a staff survey which has highlighted a number of areas where people think we can improve.

Convinced managers that fatigue is a real H&S issue. Shift patterns were given more consideration, however there is still a production-first culture.

Made contact with a mother who on a couple of occasions at our pool had not been looking after her child appropriately and had abused lifeguards when they approached her. Had a chat about our supervision policy. No issues since.

Got GPS satellite phones for areas out of normal cellphone coverage.

Getting contractors to do toolbox talks as a regular part of the job.

No one died.

I oversaw one of our sites raised to compliant level for the new DG regs coming into effect December 2019.

Helped launch our new focus on dropped items, called S.P.E.N.T (Secure your tools; Pass diagonally; Exclusion zone; Nets, screens & guards; Toeboards).

Nothing – companies are so worried about skin cancer they can’t see their people dying from heat exhaustion wearing compulsory long sleeves.

Began a process improvement team as a way of focusing on H&S.

Told by our national safety team that my incident investigations are some of the best they have seen. Managers have started to use my template and process.

Got the school I work in to comply with its own rules about having blinds in classrooms that can be closed during lockdowns.

Had a noise survey completed and had exposure levels checked by occupational hygienists.

Changed the culture in our warehouse, where the “old school” staff have come to terms with a young woman knowing her stuff about H&S.

Having a H&S charter for our building committee.

Finally got incident reporting online.

There is improvement in community corrections management addressing H&S concerns, but the process for identifying and eliminating mental health risks is not clearly defined or transparent.

Designed the safety symbol that has been endorsed by our company and promoted nationally: Be mindful, Be present, Be Safe. Employees feeling positive one of their own designed it.

Got a risk looked at and changes made after the worker had asked multiple managers but nothing had changed.

Raised an issue over how a manager was treating staff, and had these concerns upheld by an external person.

Scheduled regular meetings with staff and wrote these up. It is near-impossible for management to acknowledge mental health issues.

Promoted awareness of hazards associated with pregnancy in our high-risk facilities.

Outside working hours, started engaging with workers and identifying risks. Had to do this in my own time because the company couldn’t give me time off to do it.


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