Comment: Creating safe workplaces

By: Carol McGeady, NTA executive officer

NTA's Carol McGeady offers a few tips on creating a safe environment for workers

Let’s think about what a good day looks like. It’s a different kind of conversation you can have with your staff. WorkSafe have publicly admitted that what they’ve been doing is not working. The number of workplace accidents is still too high. I recently heard Phil Parkes CEO of WorkSafe say that if we could make a reduction of 10% that’s two hundred million dollars saved—t​​here’s a couple of schools in there or significant upgrades in our public health services.

Legal compliance is important. We must also enable people and communities to do well. Look at how COVID-19 was handled. The outcome was good for you and good for those you depend on and who depend on you. A willingness to comply with the rules of lockdown meant that the country could stamp out the virus.

Imagine if we applied the same principles to the workplace and people made them safe and this stamped out injuries or deaths. It’s a total shift in thought patterns around Health and Safety practices.

Seventy-three percent of all fatalities involve a vehicle. Phil said as WorkSafe looks at the transport sector, they’re interested in the impact the supply chain has on every driver.

There are issues of hours of work required to meet contractual arrangement and the drivers have no ability to change that. He suggests it’s inequitable that the people with the least control are the people who suffer the worst consequences of the decisions made at the top.

There’s a lot of pressure felt when companies or drivers make large investments in vehicles. If half a million dollars is invested in a vehicle, managers are going to want to return that investment; this puts pressure on the driver to be on the road as long as possible.

Take the time and sit with each staff member and ask them: "Can you explain to me what a good day looks like for you?" Listen carefully. Then ask, "What does a bad day look like?"

You may be shocked at how much information you receive just by having this casual conversation. You may find out what or who is putting pressure on that person.

It may be something small to begin with but by the end of the day, may be having big impacts on that person. You may get a common issue that more than one person is mentioning. It could be a situation where something is supposed to encourage safety but causes other potential risks.

It has been recorded that in some workplace accidents, staff have often said: "that’s an accident waiting to happen." While the Health and Safety manual sitting on your shelf says to report any near-misses, most situations are not always reported. People must develop the urgency to protect themselves and their fellow workers and until that happens, our numbers are going to remain unacceptable.


We cannot just rely on people’s common sense. As the owner of a company, you must take the time to work and spend time in every department so you can see it operating with your own eyes. Identify the unsafe places to stand, walk and fix them by making sure your staff are made aware of every possible situation that could happen. By having individual conversations with each employee, you will find out what happens in their day and what risks they face.

Anyone that has had to deal with a serious injury or death of an employee will tell you it’s life-changing. It can also be the end of your business, as the fines are eye-popping amounts. All fines are payable by the company and they cannot be insured. Your insurance can cover the cost to defend in court, but you will pay the fine.

Even though the fines are getting bigger, some companies continue to run their business without worrying about either their health or their staff. When the act changed, everyone ran out and wrote Health and Safety plans. While that looks good on the shelf, unless you’re doing everything humanly possible, you could end up experiencing a stressful time if you have an injury or death on your premises and you’ve not been actively taking measures to avoid it.

You need to take action on anything that’s raised. Sure it might cost you to fix or amend something but that cost is minimal compared to some of the fines that are being handed out.

You can check out the cases where WorkSafe have prosecuted and the fines they’ve charged. This is in addition to the pay-out to the victim. They are hefty amounts and are completely avoidable. The level of the fine can be determined by how robust your workplace Health and Safety plans are.

Mental health can be a big contributing factor to an accident or someone doing something wrong. It’s essential to include mental health and wellbeing into your workplace Health and Safety. When people are stressed and tired for a long period of time, it can lead to serious mental health problems.

Make sure you check on people and that your staff know the warning signs. When people have an issue with how they’re re feeling over a prolonged period, your intervention might save their life. Early warning signs can indicate that someone is not doing well.

The NZ Trucking Association has developed some resources that you can use: poster for the wall, tips on how to get help, and how to help someone else. The window stickers ‘Trucking Along—Let’s Talk’ symbolises empathy towards an illness that’s not often talked about.

My final comments are, look at what you’re doing now and work out how you can do better. Start by asking each of your staff to describe a good and bad day.

Find trucks for sale in NZ

Keep up to date in the industry by signing up to Deals on Wheels' free newsletter or liking us on Facebook