Health and Safety Chat

It is the Simple things that make the difference

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Steve Schroder

15 Feb 2016

I don’t normally write about articles like this. However, I was moved to do so by the sheer magnitude of the failing involved here!


On the 20th of January 2017, the New Zealand Herald released an article detailing the findings of a Waikato road works fatality.

As I read this article, it struck me how the simple things could have avoided this tragic accident. The Judge found that the company’s health and safety compliance was “lax” at best and “pointless”. This callous disregard for safety was found to have directly contributed to the incident.

This attitude to safety, unfortunately, is shared by too many companies who rely on blind luck to make sure accidents don’t happen. When the inevitable does eventually happen they lay the blame at the feet of the employee saying “they should have known better!” or “only dumb people would get caught out like that!”

What disturbed me the most reading this case, was how many people were involved either directly or indirectly with the incident and could have prevented it from happening. You had the stop-go man, the STMS, other employees that were working on the site and finally the truck driver. All who failed to act. On top of this, there were unsafe vehicles, un-inducted staff, and a “missing” quality plans and the list goes on!

you do need to be able to do is be able to prove that you are taking all reasonable and practicable steps to manage the health and safety risks in your business.

When you look at this incident (and I don’t call it an accident as that implies the wrong message I believe) Simple and quite frankly the bear basics of safety would have saved this woman’s life!

  • Simple inductions of all staff would have helped the staff members involved identify the risks; it is also the bare minimum that you should be doing in any business. How do staff know what the risks of your business are without being told!
  • Training for the staff so they know what to they are supposed to be doing, how to work appropriate safety equipment, and how to control any risks that exist.
  • A detailed safety plan. That plan is then is approved by relevant people within the business and regulatory bodies if required.
  • A simple toolbox talk, to communicated this plan to the workers should have been the minimum.
  • A site set up safely in accordance with the safety plan.
  • And in this case, a staff member helping the truck driver out by confirming he is o.k. to tip.
  • And most importantly listening to the safety concerns of employees as they raise them to ensure that risks are being controlled.

I have undertaken too many investigations in my time. It is sad to say, I have heard every excuse listing in this article before, “we lost it”, “I did call it, though, they must not have heard me”, and this attitude is for the most part driven from the top. If you don’t care about the safety of the business, then simply put neither will your employees. The result of this being, that your business stands to significant repercussions, in the form of fines, reputation, and internal costs that are not recognised (stress, emotional harm to your staff, and the internal financial cost associated with being taken to court.)

Hindsight is a wonderful thing in cases such as these, but I truly hope that the harsh lessons that can be learnt from this incident are incorporated into the safety culture of the companies involved.

This case serves as a timely reminder to all working in high-risk industries that health and safety must be at the forefront of everything you do!

At smart safety solutions, we specialise in customised safety systems for businesses, to make them relevant to both your business and your employees. If you think that your systems need work or you simply want a second opinion, then give Steve or Susan a call today and see how we can help you.

Remember safety just doesn’t have to be that hard!

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