MATT COBHAM, SITESORTED
THE NEW HEALTH and Safety Reform Bill proposes 10 concepts, most of which aren’t new. However, the concepts will be more explicit and will come with a new set of regulations enabling WorkSafe NZ to enforce them with harsher punishment.
Paperwork is set to increase to maintain compliance under the Health and Safety Reform Bill – which will force directors to exercise due diligence to ensure the safety and health of their employees (and workplaces). Old paper-based Workplace Health and Safety (WHS) management systems simply won’t cut it anymore and directors need to realise this.
The Bill and the new regulations are set to put the country’s WHS systems into the modern age, but paper-based systems aren’t keeping up in accounting for modern workplace practices – trying to handle multiple contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and servicemen. Workers don’t like complicated and convoluted systems for doing what could be a very simple job. All they want to do is to get on with it.
The question has to be asked then: How can a director, with a paper-based system, effectively perform due diligence, account for overlapping as well as upstream duties while inciting a motivated safety culture?
The answer: they struggle. With cloud-based WHS systems, they don’t.
It has already been proven with the rise of social media that cloud-based solutions have the ability to effectively handle multiple users inputting large amounts of information. What’s more is that they draw on the fundamental concepts of motivational science: autonomy, competence and purpose. Something a paper-based system can almost certainly not do.
By taking proven philosophies of multi-user platforms on mobile devices (laptops, tablets and smartphones) and applying them to a WHS management system, some revolutionary functionalities are introduced.
Cloud-based WHS systems can conduct the same procedures in real-time that a manual system would take days to do. Internal databases can house dictionaries of typical hazards with expected controls helping a worker to better identify risk on their site. Most importantly, they can accommodate multiple organisations on-site ensuring they are all adhering to the Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) health and safety procedures.
The discontinuity in communication between directors, high level management, subcontractors and workers on the coalface can finally be continuous (and in real-time). As communication flow improves, so do feedback cycles. All of a sudden coalface workers feel more competent and understand the value in what they are doing. Workplace behavioural patterns that the new Bill and regulations are trying to drive can actually be realised.
An example of this is the monotonous prestart form and meeting. Anyone who has been involved in these understands the temptation to just copy the previous day without giving it any thought. It is all too easy to scribble down some generic hazards then get up and say: “Lads… same as always, get to it.”
Using cloud-based WHS systems prestart forms become interactive. A foreman can select the day’s tasks then be be made aware of associated hazards, impacts and controls from a database based on regulations and industry standards. When presenting the prestart meeting, WHS managers can set prompts for the foreman to talk about in the form of diagrams, pictures and videos. During the day, if people sign on to the prestart, the foreman can be notified they have new personnel on site. Feedback loops are more effectively closed, engagement is increased and workers are motivated to act in a safer and healthier way.
The most significant functionality offered by cloud-based systems is their ability to handle overlapping PCBUs. If multiple contractors are working on a single site, they can all meet their obligations to cooperate and coordinate WHS systems. Not only is it immoral to withhold safer workplace practices from a subcontractor, soon it will be illegal.
Adding layers upon layers of paperwork just to be compliant won’t save lives.
Instead, cloud-based WHS systems that meet compliance by engaging workers and motivating them to act in a safer and healthier way will.
The stakes have been raised, consequences are more severe and the onus falls on directors. For companies that are yet to understand the implications of the new reform and how best to be compliant, now is the time to act.