Worker engagement and participation is key to improving health and safety and a key component of the law. It’s about having meaningful discussions with your team. Here’s how.
THE HEALTH and Safety at Work Act asks those in charge of a workplace to carry out worker engagement and participation with their team(s). If you are an employer – or what the Act calls a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) – you are expected to:
- share information
- give workers the opportunity to share their views and contribute to decision making
- advise workers of any outcomes and decisions you have made.
What is worker engagement and participation?
Participation is a way that workers can raise health and safety concerns, suggest improvements and make decisions that affect health and safety. When working well, it means:
- workers know how to participate and report issues to the PCBU
- workers have the opportunity to raise issues or suggestions
- the PCBU considers and responds to the workers quickly.
Why is it important?
Worker engagement and participation help you build a good health and safety culture. A strong culture leads to a healthier and safer workplace. This ultimately leads to increased productivity and less downtime and costs you less as you don’t need to get a replacement team on board if someone gets hurt.
By getting workers involved, often the best solutions are found as they are the ones carrying out the job every day. In addition, if they have helped with the process, they are more involved and engaged at work. Often this means they will work more effectively and produce better work for the team.
What must workplaces do?
Exactly how a business carries out engagement and participation depends on the size of the organisation and the type of work carried out. However, the law is clear – a PCBU must regularly engage with workers in a deliberate and planned way.This means that it is good to have formal ways to contribute in addition to the informal ways that many businesses offer. There are many ways you can carry out worker engagement and participation:
- Health and safety representatives.
- Health and safety committees.
- Staff intranet or noticeboard.
- Allow workers to raise issues in person with the manager.
- Include health and safety as a regular agenda item during team meetings. This gives workers a regular opportunity to share their ideas and observations and an opportunity for you to share information with them.
- Create a suggestions box as a convenient way for workers to suggest health and safety improvements.
- Workplace inspections.
- Include a toolbox talk as part of your regular prestart meeting. Toolbox meetings are an opportunity to provide positive feedback for safe actions, hard work and initiatives. It is important to avoid criticism and acknowledge everyone for their contributions. The meeting shouldn’t be a lecture but a chance for engagement with the team. Check out Site Safe’s Practical Safety Advice pages for ideas. There’s also a free toolbox talk minutes template as part of Site Safe’s Site-Specific Safety Plan. Another good idea is to ask experienced workers to lead a toolbox talk on a topic in their area of expertise.
- Reward good reporting. Encourage workers to report safe actions, incidents and observations by providing recognition such as a prize or work shout, or they can nominate a workmate who has acted safely or been a safety role model.
Also, inform workers about outcomes and decisions of incidents they reported in a timely fashion wherever possible. People are likely to get involved in health and safety if they can see it is valued and recommendations and improvements are followed through on.
Site Safe has a Leadership in Safety course designed to help you engage with workers and contractors on site – go to www.sitesafe.org.nz.
Articles are correct at the time of publication but may have since become outdated.