Q&A with a Health and Safety Expert: Geoff from Rangiriri Consultants
Our BDM Anthony recently met with leading Health and Safety expert Geoff Brokenshire to ask him about the state of the H&S sector in New Zealand, the things we do well and the things we need to improve and what he thinks can make the biggest difference to keeping people safe.
Here is what Geoff had to say.
Anthony: What got you into Health & Safety?
Geoff: Like many I got into H&S by default due to being the best person for the job. That said ever since I started work in 1971 I was part of a Health and Safety Committee and part of an environmental management team. I guess my biggest driver to getting into H&S consulting was the desire to add value to other people’s businesses and to help people go home safe at the end of the day.
A: Where do you focus your efforts in the market place?
G: Much of my efforts is reviewing and advising on the practical out working of health and safety measures in the workplace. This naturally follows on to systems design and management but implementation is key. Every business needs to identify their risks (which includes health & safety, environmental & business risk), then to implement controls to manage those risks. I see my role in my client’s businesses as an aid to the identification and control of those risks.
A: Where do you think Health Safety is failing in NZ? and Why?
G: H&S in NZ is failing primarily due to the attitude to H&S in the workplace. This is driven by the Kiwi “She’ll be right” attitude and the No8 wire approach, plus the impression that H&S is over the top. H&S has yet to become part of the workplace culture and is still regarded as another compliance requirement that adds cost to the business and removes people away from the core functions of getting product out the door. This is seen as a large inhibitor to many business owners who are SME’s (>90% NZ businesses).
Another reason may be that the 1992 Act was poorly managed at the regulator level (the regulator was underfunded and under resourced) giving the risk of getting away with not doing H&S fairly reasonable. Today the regulator is much more visible, is better funded and resourced, which together with a new Act that has big teeth, should see a gradual turnaround of attitudes. Even if for the wrong reason.
A: If you could change one thing in the industry what would it be?
G: Regulate H&S practitioners.
At present there is nothing stopping your hairdresser from hanging out a slate and calling themselves a health and safety consultant. It is this lack of registration and control that has allowed unqualified people and smart marketing people into a sector that is complex. As a result these folk have given the industry a bad rap which has adversely affected the reputation of all practitioners.
A: Why do you think we have not had the impact on bringing the poor statistics down?
G: Three main reasons:
- Possibly poor education,
- Making H&S too complex and
- Poor attitude towards workplace safety
The regulator is doing a great job in getting information out but they rely on business owners, or their delegated person, to access the regulators website to find the information they need. But if you don’t know what you need then how can you know what to look for? Unfortunately there are still some out there who do not know that there has been H&S legislation since 1992, specifically & imbedded into other legislation prior to that, and are blithely unaware of the current legislation which became law in 2015.
A: What do you think has the potential to have the biggest impact in H&S?
- Simplification of H&S processes via the use of online technology
- Better and simpler information to business owners and
- Greater penalties (unfortunately). This is the stick to go with the carrot.
A: How do you think H&S is viewed by business owners in NZ?
G: For many business owners H&S is a ‘pain in the butt’ because it is seen as another compliance cost among a whole raft of compliance costs businesses face that reduce the economic viability of a business. These costs are both in time and in money.
A: How would you relate the economic benefit of better H&S to business owners?
G: A company with good H&S systems often see improvements in outputs (volume & quality) because the workforce feel more secure and therefore happier at work. If the workforce can see ‘the boss’ is putting effort into H&S and leading from the front then the workers will follow their example.
A: What made you want to work with Blerter?
G: I see Blerter as a product that stands out from the crowd of online H&S products. The main difference being that Blerter does not pretend to be everything and does not force the purchaser to buy a whole H&S system with the product. The purchaser still needs to develop their own processes and systems, Blerter provides the tools for managing the key ingredients by placing reporting systems into the hands of the workers giving them real time notification of hazards/ risks, incidents plus location sign in & out. Blerter allows the user to upload some key documentation to allow the user to keep key information in front of those who need it.
A: What impact do you see us working together having in the marketplace?
G: Hopefully significant. I have a number of clients who would benefit from Blerter as they have a significant number of staff on multiple sites. This is where Blerter shines as it allows every staff member to have key H&S systems on their smartphone thereby reducing the cost of having to look for a piece of paper to make a report or to remember to do it on return to base. It allows employers to act more quickly to H&S issues before they become a major problem.
Rangiriri Consultants have the expertise to provide the H&S information and advice where Blerter provides the technical support and online presence to make the systems work.
Geoff is a Director and Consultant at Rangiriri Consultants.
Based in Matamata in the heart of the Waikato within easy travelling distances to the major cities of Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, Taupo and Tauranga. Rangiriri Consultants provide expertise in the design and implementation of environmental, quality, health and safety management systems to ISO and NZS compliance plus compliance requirements under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1997.