H&S: Working together on risks

Health and safety (H&S) is not something you do alone. It’s everybody’s responsibility. This includes you and your workers, as well as anyone else you might share a work environment with.

Talking to each other about risks, and how to eliminate or minimise them, can go a long way to keeping your work healthy and safe.

For business owners, it’s essential for you to engage with your workers about H&S and give them opportunities to be involved. This is because:  

  • workers are a business’s eyes and ears, especially when it comes to risk
  • workers are more likely to engage in H&S if they have input into it
  • it makes everyone feel responsible
  • it’s your legal responsibility to make it happen
  • H&S becomes easier because the workload is shared.

It doesn’t mean that you all have to agree, but it’s important that everyone has had a chance to freely say what they think and have their thoughts considered.

When considering who else might be affected by your work, it’s a good idea to think broadly. It may not be just you and your workers, but your customers and visitors, neighbouring businesses, and your contractors and sub-contractors.

You all have duties to do what’s “reasonably practicable” to keep your work healthy and safe under the H&S laws that are coming into effect in April.

The law says you must take “reasonably practicable” steps to minimise risks. What does this mean?

The law says you must take “reasonably practicable” steps to minimise risks. What does this mean?

It’s about taking responsibility for what you can reasonably be expected to control.

What is reasonably practicable and what isn’t

You should work together to manage the different risks. This doesn’t mean you all have to do the same thing, but it does mean agreeing who will do what, and keeping tabs to make sure the risks are managed.

Ultimately, good H&S practice is all about consulting, coordinating and cooperating with one another.

Case Study

Paula runs her nail salon in a leased space at a Hamilton mall. The salon has chemicals stored in a rear room, and she gets deliveries of bulk products to the loading zone at the back of the mall. She frequently talks with her workers about risks at the salon, and considers their suggestions for improvements. They also know they can raise any health and safety problems with her directly at any time.

There's a clothing shop on one side of her salon, and a toy shop on the other, so she always checks the extractor fan is working correctly to keep fumes to a minimum. She asks the shop managers to contact her if they smell a problem or if they have any other H&S concerns, or if they are doing things that will affect her own staff's health and safety.

She talks to the mall manager about how she is managing risks, including letting him know when deliveries are due. She also discusses how the mall's evacuation plan relates to her salon, and makes sure her workers know what to do in the event of a fire, or other emergency.

She also chats to the window cleaner who comes in once a week, as he uses a ladder and Paula doesn't want her door blocked while he's working. He positions the ladder to the side of the salon door and erects orange cones so customers can come and go safely. He's also careful to clean up all spillages after he's done.

Health and safety laws are changing on 4 April 2016, and we want you to be prepared. You can find out more information here:

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