Thursday, 09 September 2021 08:55

Here to help not harm - claim

Written by  Mark Daniel
WorkSafe New Zealand agriculture engagement lead Al McCone. WorkSafe New Zealand agriculture engagement lead Al McCone.

Is it time farmers looked at workplace health and safety from an unfamiliar perspective?

That's the view of Al McCone, agriculture engagement lead at WorkSafe New Zealand. While many perceive WorkSafe NZ as a heavyhanded regulator that arrives with a big stick, McCone suggests that nothing could be further from the truth.

"We would much rather be invited onto a property in an advisory capacity to help identify potential hazards, rather than be compelled to turn up because of a major accident or fatality."

He points out that people are not perfect and will make mistakes, some minor and others not so minor. McCone believes there will always be a need to look at an tweak systems so that the "human factor" in any process can be reduced or preferably eliminated.

He told Rural News a great starting point is to listen to workers' views on individual systems, adopt good suggestions and reap the benefits of worker buy-in.

"Without doubt, a better system will lead to a better workplace that will lead to more productivity, enhanced profits and an ongoing issue for many employers - that of better staff retention," McCone adds.

He says most New Zealand rural businesses fall into four categories when it comes to attitudes to health and safety.

The first group is 'Reactive' - taking the stance that there aren't any operational issues and only consider making H&S improvements if there is a monetary impact and largely only do so to meet legal obligations. McCone reckons it's unlikely that they include workers in decision making.

The next group is 'Compliant' focused businesses. McCone describes these as those that are aware they need to improve, act because they need to and offer some worker engagement but suffer from poor leadership. On the flipside, 'Proactive' companies realise that rules lead to empowerment and generally seek worker buy-in.

"They factor risks into all key decisions and 'do it' because they ought to," he says.

The final group, the 'Enlightened', actively seek their employees' input in all H&S decisions, and adopt H&S as a core value of the business.

"They give it equal status with other key areas of the business, seek continual improvement and realise that operational excellence leads to a good H&S result - alongside general wellness and ultimately a great business," McCone explains.

He says the benefits of a great workplace are multiple. "Besides worker retention, our research shows less absenteeism, less sickness and a generally happier workforce, who typically perform extra hours for free," McCone adds.

"With fewer injuries and better profitability, we are seeing an enhanced reputation for these businesses with potential workers knocking at the door looking for jobs."

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