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A long way to go win safety confidence

Over three out of every 10 working New Zealanders lack confidence in their training and safety systems, and that is a concern.

Released late last year, the WorkSafe New Zealand Annual Report revealed only 66 per cent of workers are “very confident I have the knowledge/skills to keep safe”.

Another troubling stat is that only 36 per cent of workers in priority sectors view health and safety as a top priority (WorkSafe Quarterly Report 2018/2019 Q1).

I worked as an electrician prior to moving into recruitment, which I have been in for 20 years. The health and safety of those that work for me has always been of paramount importance.

I moved to New Zealand 10 years ago and health and safety has come a long way in that time.

However, the survey findings revealed in the report shows we have more work to do. The “number 8 wire” mentality- near enough is good enough - is worn as a badge of pride by most Kiwis but it can be dangerous when it comes to safety.

It’s not all bad news though with the report revealing there has been a reduction in fatal and serious workplace incidents in the past few years with government data showing the number of work-related deaths dropped from 50 in 2017 to 42 in 2018.

While this shows we are heading in the right direction, 42 families lost loved ones on work sites last year in New Zealand and that’s 42 too many.

Complacency about safety is always a concern, and with two of New Zealand’s largest infrastructure projects underway - the airport upgrade and City Rail Link in Auckland - now is not the time to be complacent.

Unfortunately, it is likely the number of workplace incidents will ebb and flow year-to-year but if we keep tracking positively in general trends over time then we’re on the right track.

While technology advancements are providing new and exciting tools that could help improve work health and safety, with one company in New Zealand testing drones and AI, reducing risk in the workplace requires everyone to participate.

Workers need to be provided with the tools and training necessary to become very confident when it comes to their safety, and aim for Absolute Zero when it comes to workplace incidents.

Rio Tinto and BHP that I have contracted to while in Western Australia were leaders in health and safety; they compelled all of their contractors to meet the high standard they met themselves.

What stood out to me the most from everything I observed in that environment is safety needs to be driven from the top – CEOs, managers and other leaders must be seen to be doing the right thing and committed to minimising harm. Your teams are watching you!

This story was originally posted on Jon’s LinkedIn page.

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