If you are a PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking) you must ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of workers is protected. You must also ensure that other persons are not put at risk by your work. This is called the ‘primary duty of care’.
To help your organisation meet the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act, Worksafe New Zealand has published a useful guide for developing a comprehensive health and safety policy that will help ensure that everyone comes home from work healthy and safe.
What does a Health and Safety Policy do?
A Health and Policy statement sets out an organisation’s approach and intentions and gives guidance around practices that ensure the health and safety of staff, clients, visitors and anyone who might be working with the organisation. Documents help everybody to understand how your workplace should run. As well as providing information, they can explain who is responsible for doing what, when and why – and how to avoid accidents and exposure to health and safety risks.
Documents help to maintain good practice, aid action planning and provide corporate memory. They are useful for monitoring progress, changes, adherence to agreed ways of working, and compliance. However, documents are not the only way that you should share important information. Key health and safety control measures need to be explained and demonstrated in person. You should check that workers understand how these controls are used to eliminate or minimise work risks.
Common Types of health and safety documents
For low-risk work, documents can be simple. For example, when working out how to manage your work risks you could note the main points about the risks you identify and how you plan to manage them. More risky work requires more complex documents. There are a range of health and safety documents to choose from, such as tables, flowcharts, policy, procedure, guidelines, forms, information and instructions.
Everyone at your workplace can help to make it a healthy and safe place to work. If you are a PCBU you must: – engage with your workers on health and safety matters that may directly affect them, so far as is reasonably practicable – have worker participation practices that give your workers reasonable opportunities to participate effectively in improving health and safety on an ongoing basis. Worker engagement can be direct, or through representation if that is what workers prefer
Engagement includes sharing information about health and safety matters so that workers are well-informed and know what is going on. It also means giving workers reasonable opportunities to have a say about health and safety matters. You should find out how health and safety issues affect how workers organise, manage and carry out their work and listen to and consider what workers have to say. Giving workers an opportunity to contribute to decision-making about health and safety matters is important, as is ensuring workers are informed about the results of the engagement process.
There are a range of helpful resources to assist organisations in developing a health and safety policy, including case studies that can help identify hazards and what measures can be taken to prevent workplace accidents. See:
Other considerations for your H&S Policy
As a PCBU, you also have a duty to provide information, supervision, training and instruction to your workers. Training includes providing information or instruction and must be easy for workers to understand.
Management of hazards
Some general actions an employer can take to manage hazards:
- Engage employees in the development of health and safety procedure
- Have an information system to make sure that employees are well informed
- Implement an accident reporting system and an investigation system
- Have an adequate training programme and supervision for staff
- Implement a sound emergency procedure
- Take regular surveys of the workplace
- Display notices in areas where a hazard may occur
- Keep an accident and incidentals register
When an employee encounters a hazard and is unable to remedy it, they should first report to their supervisor or manager. There should be sound policy in place for when a hazard is discovered. Any hazards should be promptly reduced or eliminated. A significant hazard is one that causes serious harm either at the time or at a later date. Serious harm must be reported to WorkSafe New Zealand as soon as possible and in writing within seven days of occurrence.
Useful Links and Resources
- Practical guide to writing health and safety documents (Worksafe)
- Workplace wellbeing policy builder (Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation)
- CommunityNet Aoteroa: Developing policies
- CommunityNet Aotearoa: Health and Safety (includes policy example)
- Community Networks Aotearoa: Health and Safety Policy Templates