Health and Safety


by Dave Pine

A few years ago, we embarked on a process of collecting metrics around what things would make Synapco a better place to work. The whole team was asked to complete a survey questionnaire and, to my surprise, the hands-down winner was having a safe workplace! (I was sure it was going to be better wages and conditions, or better equipment.) This presented me with somewhat of a challenge – the common view of managers I had worked with in the past was that Health and Safety was a nuisance, cost time and money, and contributed nothing, but clearly I would have to change my way of thinking.

The survey result showed me that there was a huge value in staff morale alone. I compiled a checklist of the legal requirements and found that we were lacking in quite a few areas – we had no formalised evacuation plan, unlicensed forklift operators, a total lack of safe operating procedures and no hazard management plan! In spite of this, we had always had a very good history when it came to workplace injuries. No issues or lost time injuries had invited a closer inspection of our operation by OSH, but that was no excuse to continue with the status quo. So, we set about improving plant safety like never before!

As key parts of the system were completed, we got down to the details. Fortunately, our production team were completing their Lean Manufacturing training, which meant there were more improvements made, and it became obvious that there were going to be more pay-offs than I originally expected. I quickly learned that being safe does not mean being slow – in fact, a well set-up work area can be both safer and more productive! I also learnt that it is essential to have the person doing a job involved in the process, not only to get buy-in, but they usually know the best ways to improve processes. We found that every time we implemented a new H&S initiative, there was an unexpected efficiency bonus that came with it, and we are now proud to accept visitors into our factory, knowing that they will be impressed with what they see here.

Eventually the day came when I got a phone call from the local OSH auditor; they would be doing a random workplace inspection the following day. When the auditor arrived, it was apparent that he expected to find a raft of issues and non-compliances, but to his surprise we ticked all the boxes and he walked away giving us a clean bill of health and a commendation! If we hadn’t made the changes, I’m sure there would have been some negative impacts to the business, and a demand to bring it up to standard.

We are fortunate in NZ to have a government that fully supports workplace safety. There are resources available from industry training organizations, which can provide a gap analysis of health and safety within your organisation, and training aids to help you achieve them, generally fully funded.

I suggest you take advantage of what’s on offer, because ultimately it will improve your staff morale and efficiency, enhance your customers’ perception of you, and most importantly, ensure that your staff get to go home at the end of each day.

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