Health and Safety Chat

Would you put the forklift operator in charge of accounts?

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Steve Schroder

21st Feb 2017

I had to laugh today as I was on my way home from catching up with a good friend of mine, for the first time in a while. He runs a successful manufacturing business which is going from strength to strength.

Now as it turns out the reason he wanted to catch up was for some advice about an incident they had, had on site and what implication they were looking at if Worksafe NZ became involved.

As I was giving advice on everything from safety, investigations to the possible disciplinary outcome for staff members involved it dawned on me that something was wrong.

So quite casually I asked who lead the health and safety within the business knowing the answer from the conversations that I had already had. “we gave the management of the health and safety to the admin girl” was the answer I got. So I posed a question as I took a drink from my coffee.

Does your admin lady have any experience running health and safety within a manufacturing environment?

I got a rather perplexed sideways look as if to say what does that have to do with what we are talking about? So I asked the question again. “little to none” was the answer I got. So I paused and then continued, so your admin lady does your parole, accounts, that sort of stuff right? To this, I got a slow nod, and you gave her the safety because of the admin involved right?
“Yeah, of course, I can’t have one of the factory guys behind the desk filling out paperwork and forms!” was the answer.

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.

Nodding fair enough I answered but let me ask you this…. Would you put your forklift operator in charge of accounts? Because that is essentially what you have done in, but reverse. This lady runs your health and safety, from health and safety committees to the drafting of SOP’s and undertaking risk assessment, and you have asked her to do this with utterly no experience in health and safety. Is she stressed?” I quipped.

It is fair to say that the lightbulb came on at this point and after another hour and some more advice and in some cases a couple of reality checks, he left. Not before making some time for me to come out and help him out with his investigations.

This, however, got me thinking. It is not uncommon to give the safety responsibilities for a business to the Human Resources team, the accounts team. But what qualifies them to perform this role.

The repercussions for health and safety not being undertaken correctly in your business are significant, from large fines to jail terms. So I ask the question of everybody. Would you put the labour, receptionist, truck driver, etc. in charge of your accounts? For the most part, the answer to this question is no. (this is not to say some of tose people can’t do the account! I have known some very smart labours!)

How are the health and safety structured within your business? Do you have people in place that can lead the safety functions within your business? The simple truth is Health and Safety is a massive topic. I learn something new every day, and I know that Susan who has been in the industry for over 18 years still picks up things.

Health and safety require someone with experience within the sector to help set up the systems and put controls in place to mitigate some of the risks within the business? If you give this to an inexperienced person to set up, then you could not only be setting your business up to fail but also with the changes in the recent legislation you could also be setting your staff member up to fail as well.

Think about it!

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!