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Robust Health and Safety practices are essential for any business to protect staff, operations and reputation. We look at three case study scenarios SMEs can learn from when working to mitigate Health & Safety liability.
Health and Safety (H&S) is essential for every business. Strong H&S processes help to protect the public, as well as a business's most important asset – its people.
Legislation requires workers and others to be given the highest level of protection from workplace health and safety risks. However, as businesses grow, gaps can appear in their health and safety systems, exposing risk which if not well managed can lead to reputational damage, an increase in insurance premium as well as legal and other costs.
That’s where Crombie Lockwood's Safety Assist team can help.
With more than 25 years of experience in New Zealand’s regulatory environment, the Safety Assist team works with businesses towards creating a zero-harm environment, with an eye on costs.
Crombie Lockwood Health & Safety Consultant, Seb James, says his team’s role is to “help take some of the health and safety stress off businesses.”
“Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, businesses can't subcontract their health and safety obligations. A lot of what we can offer is to help businesses achieve those [obligations] in the easiest way possible.
“As some of the following examples of health and safety issues in the workplace show, it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all scenario.”
Water blasters might not seem dangerous, but this commonly used piece of equipment has the potential to cause significant injuries in the workplace.
A person was seriously injured when the threaded bolt at the top of their hired 3000psi water blaster ejected and struck them in the face.
An investigation found that while the water blaster was maintained and serviced properly, and the operator was experienced and using it correctly, routine maintenance may have led to a bolt cross threading.
This example demonstrates some of the many unknowns that businesses face in looking after their staff, says Seb.
“Many businesses hire water blasters, and they'll be reliant on the people who they're hiring from to maintain them. They might do a degree of line maintenance, taking it apart, clean the seals and putting it back together. It introduces a risk that was previously unforeseen, with devastating consequences in this case.”
Seb James, Crombie Lockwood Health & Safety Consultant
In 2019, a cyclist riding past a construction site for the Christchurch Southern Motorway extension followed a temporary route set up by site traffic management, when a truck collided with them as it entered the site.
The cyclist didn’t survive their injuries, and a subsequent WorkSafe investigation alleged a proper traffic management plan wasn’t in place.
Seb says: “This is a tragic example of where safety measures in shared spaces have been inadequate. Wherever possible workplaces should work towards segregating vehicles from pedestrians and cyclists.
“It’s important that your businesses’ traffic management is up to scratch, because if an accident occurs and a prosecution happens, that's a pretty clear-cut case,” says Seb.
Cardan shaft park brakes are common in many small-to-medium trucks, holding the vehicle and its load in place. These brakes have limitations though, which can lead to a vehicle rolling away. Waka Kotahi has reported that in the last 10 years four of these incidents have resulted in fatalities.
“Poor maintenance or user error with these brakes in the workplace has resulted in run-away vehicles, injuries, and fatalities,” says Seb. “We deal with panel beaters and mechanic workshops, and delivery companies who are working with these kinds of vehicles. Businesses need to have systems in place so they can reduce the odds of the vehicles failing.”
Seb says that these examples showcase the complex landscape that underpins H&S.
“Health and safety should be about looking after the people because without them there is no business. They should be the first priority; they're your expertise; they're your manpower, they're everything.”
Crombie Lockwood’s Safety Assist team can independently review your H&S management system and identify gaps ranging from policies and procedures to full systems. Find out more about Crombie Lockwood’s health & safety solutions.
Published November 2022