Managing people

Managing health and safety in your business

Keeping you and your team healthy and safe means your business can go the distance in peak condition. To do that, you’ll need know how to make a top-notch health and safety plan.

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In this article

Where to start

Whatever your business shape and size – and whether your team is stacking shelves, on a production line, or at a desk – you’ll need a health and safety plan.

It starts with identifying the risks and hazards in your business, but it doesn’t end by writing it down. You also need to make the plan part of your day-to-day business. 

The law says you are responsible for keeping yourself and your staff safe in the workplace, as far as is reasonably practical. This means you need to keep up to date with the law, understand the health and safety risks of your workplace, and take all steps to get rid of or reduce these risks.

It’s not just on your shoulders. Everyone in the workplace plays a part and has responsibility for identifying and managing risk.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 sets out your workplace health and safety responsibilities. Other laws you need to know about are the Accident Compensation Act 2001, the Employment Relations Act 2000, and the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996. 

Identify risks and hazards in your business

Think about the types of risks and hazards you and your staff could be exposed to. Think beyond the obvious (like slipping on a wet floor or tripping over an extension cord). Some hazards build up over time, cause emotional distress, or remain unseen until it’s too late. 

Use these categories to help you make a list of the risks and hazards in your business.

Physical hazards

Things that can cause physical harm like lifting heavy objects, poor quality desks and chairs, falling from heights, or moving machinery. Injuries from these hazards may happen quickly or over time.

Environmental hazards

Things in the environment that could cause injury or ill health, like hot or cold temperatures, sun exposure, uneven ground, or poor lighting.

Hazardous substances

Things like asbestos or chemicals that could cause health issues such as cancer or fertility problems.

Social hazards

This includes things like overwork, long hours, or bullying that can cause work-related stress and other illnesses.

Biological hazards

Examples include bacteria and viruses that can cause health problems.

Questions to help you identify risks and hazards

Once you have your initial list, ask these questions to flesh it out and make sure you’ve captured everything:

  • Could anyone be injured or get sick if something goes wrong from the work we do?
  • What hazards could harm me, my workers, suppliers, customers, or other people?
  • Do we have any risks that are unlikely to occur, but could cause harm if they did? How can we minimise these risks?
  • Have I thought about what types of emergencies could affect me and my staff? Do I have a plan if there is an emergency?
  • Do I know how to find out how any injuries, illnesses, or near-misses were caused? How can I make sure they don’t happen again?
  • Can I contact other experts for help? 

Create a health and safety plan

Your health and safety plan should be easy to understand, with clear targets and procedures. It’s a good idea to have the people in your business help write, update, and test it, so you have genuine buy-in.

A good health and safety plan will have:

  • Ways to get everyone involved in creating and using the plan
  • Procedures for identifying risks and plans to get rid of (or minimise) the risks
  • Procedures for monitoring everyone’s health and safety
  • A process for notifying authorities about a serious injury or death
  • Information on what to do in an emergency, including natural disasters
  • Training for new staff so they understand the risks and how to keep themselves safe from day one
  • A process to review the plan at least once a year or after something major happens.

If you want help identifying risks or creating a plan, you can get advice from a health and safety expert. The Health and Safety Association of New Zealand (HASANZ) has information on choosing the right expert for you.

Make your plan part of your everyday

Your health and safety plan isn’t just a piece of paper. Everyone in your business needs to help create it, commit to it, and act on it.

If your plan has measurable goals, and you can all understand it, you’re on the right track.

How to put your plan into action

  • Lead by example
  • Keep health and safety top of everyone’s mind
  • Have regular agenda items at staff meetings, run safety training courses, and run emergency drills
  • Keep accurate and up-to-date records of risks and hazards, training, and any incidents
  • Act quickly if you see any signs of health and safety concerns. 

Managing risk in business

Risk is a part of business but with a good risk management plan you can determine not only what risks your business is exposed to but also what you want to do about it. This video will help you get started on identifying the potential risks to your business and your next steps.

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