New Zealand Law Society - Half of workplaces said to have immature or passive safety culture

Half of workplaces said to have immature or passive safety culture

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Roughly half of New Zealand's workplaces can be classified as having an immature or passive health and safety culture, WorkSafe says in its annual report for the year to 30 June 2019.

The report outlines key insights from a benchmark study which WorkSafe and MBIE are working on together. This will result in an annual dashboard to track progress on the Government Health and Safety at Work Strategy.

Part of the research aims to understand New Zealand's health and safety at work cultural maturity. WorkSafe says workplaces with an immature or passive culture are more likely to be in agriculture (66%), manufacturing (53%), construction (48%), commercial fishing (51%), wholesale trade (50%) and rental hiring/real estate services (48%).

The least mature ("it's just common sense") employers make up 21% of New Zealand business. WorkSafe says they are more likely to see having good health and safety practices as being imposed upon them by the regulator, report complying with regulations so they "don't get into trouble", view compliance with health and safety regulations as being a significant cost to the business wqith little perceived benefit, and put little effort into safety measures beyond compliance. They rely on their own knowledge and experience and expect workers to use their common sense, and have rules in place, but see it as workers' responsibility to follow them.

Still passive/reactive, 27% of businesses are at a somewhat more developed state of maturity - "all talk but little walk" businesses - which approach health and safety in a transactional manner. Workers follow the rules, but only when management is on the floor or when it is convenient. Management is on board with health and safety, but there is little follow through. There is a disconnect between management's and worker's views on health and safety.

WorkSafe says the research has demonstrated that workplaces where there is an emphasis on compliance over good workplace culture have poorer health and safety outcomes. Workers with less committed attitudes to good health and safety practices tend to be found in workplaces that are also less committed to safety.

It says just over half of employers take a proactive approach to managing health and safety risks, and have a mature health and safety culture.

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