Category Archives: Workplace Health and Safety

Encouraging a Positive Safety Culture

Deloitte’s recently issued their second annual Health and Safety Leadership Survey of New Zealand Companies.  In it 90% of Kiwi CEO’s think their health and safety risks are effectively managed but there are 3 key areas that needed improvement: risk management, worker engagement and contractor management.

Lead by example
Build trust and respect
Communicate clearly
Involve everyone
Keep learning

Business Leaders’ Health & Safety Forum Executive Director Francois Barton said that overall the survey results were encouraging and provided a view of what good practice looks like. “However, there are some gaps between the commitment of our business leaders and the reality of health and safety practice on the ground.”  He noted that the report shows that culture and worker participation are seen as key to improving health and safety performance but efforts to improve safety culture are patchy.

Improving the safety culture in your workplace will mean:

  • fewer accidents, injuries and lost time
  • safer behaviours among workers
  • improved well-being and job satisfaction
  • better relationships between management and staff.

So how do you know if your company has a good safety culture?  What does it look like?  The Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment produced a document in 2013 to improve the safety in mines, quarries and tunnels.  This list of “What a strong health and safety culture looks like” from the publication can be applied to any industry.

  • Leaders are regularly seen in the workplace with the team.
  • Everybody knows that if a job can’t be done safely it isn’t done at all.
  • Everyone has the knowledge and skills to do their jobs safely.
  • Everyone knows what their health and safety responsibilities and duties are.
  • Staff, contractors and representatives are actively involved in decision-making.
  • There is open and honest communication across the organisation.
  • There is mutual respect between workers and managers.
  • Everyone actively reports incidents, hazards and near misses.
  • Incidents and hazards are investigated without fear of blame or recrimination.
  • People who break the rules or condone rule breaking by others are held accountable.
  • The organisation learns from incidents and near misses and makes sure they don’t happen again.
  • There is emphasis on the use and continuous improvement of systems.
  • Risk assessment is routinely and actively used at all levels and in all processes.
  • Health and safety is adequately resourced with sufficient people, equipment and time.

So how much of the list can your company tick off? To create an effective safety culture is an ongoing process.  It requires a large commitment on behalf of the entire company. Here are a five tips to get you started:

  1. Everybody needs to be a role model.  Everyone is accountable for being visibly involved in safety, especially managers and supervisors.
  2. Share you safety vision.  Ensure everyone knows your company’s safety expectations.  Induction training should include the company’s safety vision.
  3. Make your safety procedures usable by:
    • keeping them simple and easy to follow– get people who use them to help write them
    • not having too many
    • making sure those who need them can access them when they need them.
  4. Cultivate a trusting culture where it is easy to:
    • report incidents (be prepared for an increase in incidents if you think there may be under-reporting at present)
    • have open and honest incident investigations
    • report and share the outcomes of investigations; make sure that incidents won’t happen again by putting new processes in place
    • communicate worries and issues.
  5. Track progress and celebrate successes.

Siteapp can help you build a good safety culture in your workplace.  It makes it easy to report incidents; procedures for each part of a job can be stored with the job for easy access by everyone and it has a simple to use site hazard identification process.  Find out how you can keep your workers safe by contacting Siteapp now.

Don’t Get Fuming Mad with Safety

In February 2015 Gunac Hawke’s Bay Limited was fined after one of its employees was overcome by toxic fumes. In January 2017, WorkSafe NZ lifted the notice prohibiting the use of a new thermally modified timber kiln at Pan Pac’s Whirinaki mill.  The mill, north of Napier, was shut down because of rashes and other ailments, which staff and neighbours feared were caused by the emissions from the kiln.

These are recent examples of where people have been adversely affected by fumes.  There are many types of fumes, gas, and other vapours which can put workers and the public at risk.  Fumes can be inhaled or come in contact with the skin or eyes.

It is not possible to set out precise requirements for every industrial situation where there is fume hazard because every workplace is different. The controls you put in place should be proportionate to the risk but the equipment selected needs to minimise health risks.  It should be appropriate for the particular work situation.

Here is are 6 things you should consider if fumes are part of your working environment:       

Adequate ventilation/extraction 

Workshops often used to rely upon a fan in the roof or open doors either end of the workshop so the wind could provide the ‘extraction’. But this meant you removed the fumes only after the operator has already breathed them in and then they would exit the building via the breathing space of all the other employees downwind. It also meant a cold workplace during winter. Now days there are many more ways to provide ventilation. Some that could be considered are:

  • Fixed hoods located at points where fumes occur/are created.
  • Ventilation equipment mounted on the equipment itself.
  • Relocatable exhaust hoods connected to fans and air-cleaners by flexible tubing.

Ventilation in a confined space is particularly important where the build-up of fumes and/or vapours can lead to the additional risks of lack of oxygen, fire or heat build up.

Respirators

There are many different types of respirator.  Ensure that they have been selected based on the type of fume hazard:

  • Dust
  • Mists and aerosols e.g. paint spray
  • Metallic fumes
  • Gaseous or vapour contaminants e.g. solvents and ammonia
  • Lack of oxygen e.g. in a confined space

Employees should be trained on how to use the respirators safely.

Eye protection

Eye protection should be chosen to fit the task and the user.  Protection can be from fully sealed units, goggles, safety glasses, face shields or masks.

Protective clothing

If the fumes contain skin irritants or particles that could be transferred outside the work environment make sure that adequate protective clothing is provided.  This may include:

  • Fully enclosed suits
  • Overalls
  • Footwear
  • Gloves

Work scheduling

If possible schedule work that produces fumes or vapours when there are less people around.  Put up warning notices to ensure that the worksite hazard area is clearly identified and to stop other workers or visitors wandering into the area.

Safety training and instructions

  • Ensure personnel have had adequate health and safety training
  • Ensure that there are clear instructions and information available for all the workers.
  • Train employees to use the first aid equipment to deal with fume inhalation incidents.
  • Personnel protective gear should be regularly checked for damage and/or that it is working correctly.

 

Siteapp allows you to attach details of the required safety equipment to a job and create safety checklists.  Call us to find out how Siteapp can help you keep your work environment and employees safe from the effect of fumes.

 

 

 

 

Working Outside Requires Extra Safety in Summer

Summer has arrived a little late for most of us.  Holidays are over, the school term is in full swing and most of us are back at work, indoors.  However for a large number of workers the day is spent outside and this can present a few extra health and safety challenges.  So whether you are an employer or an employee, a vineyard worker, road worker, landscaper or construction worker think about the additional risks a job outside can cause.

Skin Cancer

Around 300 New Zealanders die of melanoma every year

Unfortunately, New Zealand has one of the highest melanoma rates in the world. Make sure that you and your staff are aware that exposure to our harsh UV rays can lead to melanoma or other skin cancers.  Not all employees may be native to New Zealand and know these risks.

As an employer could you provide a good quality sunscreen, long sleeve clothing made of breathable material or hats and/or neck protectors to minimise the chances of getting sunburn? Ensure that the staff know the risks so that they don’t take their hats or shirts off when they get out of sight.

Get your workers to wear sunglasses.  Do you need to provide safety sunglasses?  If their job involves the risk of loose, flying materials a pair of UV rated safety sunglasses will have good impact protection and minimise sun damage to the eyes.

Minimise sun exposure by providing sunshades or shelter over the working positions where practicable.

Common Myths about Skin Cancer: 

  • You cannot get skin cancer if it’s cloudy or through a window.
  • People with dark skin do not get skin cancer.
  • Fake tan will protect you from UV exposure.
  • You need to be outside to get Vitamin D from the sunshine.

 

Dehydration and Heat stroke

On average 14 people die a year from heat-related causes

Like paint your body dries quickly in the heat and sunshine.  If heat exhaustion is not dealt with quickly, it can progress to heat stroke, which can be life-threatening.

Working in confined spaces like underfloor, ceiling or roof work will increase the risk of heat exhaustion.  Ensure there is adequate airflow through these areas, use fans or air conditioning to provide ventilation.

Humidity increases the likelihood of heat exhaustion as much as the actual temperature. High humidity prevents sweat from evaporating, so that the body has more difficulty cooling itself.

To prevent heat exhaustion:

  • Drink water every 15 minutes even if you don’t feel thirsty.  Avoid drinking too much coffee, sugary drinks or alcohol as these can be dehydrating.
  • Take regular breaks in the shade.
  • Take extra precautions with certain medications

Make sure your workers know the signs of heat exhaustion before it becomes heatstroke. Heat stroke victims usually don’t recognise their own symptoms.

  • Clammy or sweaty skin
  • Darker coloured urine
  • Pounding or rapid pulse
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Feeling weak or dizzy

Heat exhaustion can quickly progress to heat stroke. Indicators of heatstroke include:

  • Mood changes or confusion
  • Loss of balance, fainting
  • Seizures
  • Dry, red skin

 

Call us now to find out how SiteApp can limit the risk to you and your employees. Create a heat stress checklist which can be completed on site quickly and easily via a smartphone or tablet.

 

Safety Solutions for Remote Locations

It is the holiday season and you may be looking forward to that break away somewhere remote where work can’t get hold of you. New Zealand’s landscape is diverse, with may parts considered rugged, remote and sparsely populated. Great for a holiday destination but sometimes things need to be built in these environments and people need to work there.  These rugged environments come with their own set of challenges including the weather, terrain and communication. What should you consider when looking at safety solutions if you work in these remote locations?

20% of New Zealand has no mobile coverage.

Most of us take using our cellphone for granted. In February 2016 fifteen new cell towers became operational, however 20% of New Zealand has no mobile coverage. For many places on the West coast of the South Island and the central regions of both Islands cell phone coverage is non-existent or patchy and WiFi non-existent.

Any computerised safety system needs to allow your team to continue working with no connection. If they know that they are heading to an area with poor coverage can they download their documents to their device before they leave the office?  Forms are filled in on location but can the information gathered be uploaded when the team are back in mobile coverage or have WiFi access?

In some New Zealand locations the weather can be extreme. Working in these conditions can cause many problems but entering data should not be one of them. Systems need to have large buttons with a clutter free design so that information can be entered quickly and easily.

If you don’t want to remove your gloves because it is too cold, voice to type functionality may be an important feature. Most tablets and phones support “voice to type” but not all software can utilise this facility.

With Siteapp safety does not need to stop just because the internet is not available. It has been designed for the field environment and for New Zealand conditions. Talk to the Siteapp team and find out how the many functions of Siteapp can allow you to work in the remote beauty of New Zealand or maybe closer to home.

Good Safety Doesn’t Need More Paperwork

Most companies have assumed that new Health & Safety at Work Act 2015 is a tedious compliance exercise involving increased amounts of paperwork.   However it is about being responsible for the health and safety of everyone at risk from a company’s work including its workers, customers, visitors, or the general public.  It does involve paperwork but is mostly about proving good health and safety procedures are operating within your company and that you have done everything possible to reduce “risk”.

For small business people, less paperwork means higher profits, boosted sales and more time with the family.  Tony Abbott (Australian MP)

Most people hate having to do any paperwork. Doing paperwork or process related tasks take them out of the field and away from the actual job.

In most cases, the burden of handling and processing paperwork falls on the shoulders of the foreman and management.  This often leaves them spending more time sifting through documentation than assessing physical risks at building sites.

Safety paperwork
You don’t need to do more paperwork to keep safe

Keen to reduce your paperwork but rather be out on site assessing risks and remaining compliant? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

Paperwork at the time

The biggest hassle about doing paperwork is the time it takes. Knowing that doing paperwork is a least favourite task for most people, many either put it off till the last minute or rush through the process just to be done with it.  What happens when things are rushed? Mistakes are made.  Where safety is involved mistakes cannot be made.

The best information is often that collected in the moment. With an online system available on tablet or smartphone the paperwork can be completed at the time of an incident, before a job is carried out or immediately after.

Eliminate the paper whenever possible

Take a look at your processes and forms. Do you ask the same questions on several forms? Are all the forms necessary? Can a simple computer program or online form be used instead so people don’t have to fill out paperwork but can just fill in an online form where the basic information is stored and re-used? Often using a computer program (online or off) will also automate things so paperwork isn’t needed. Or just eliminate the paperwork altogether if it’s possible.  Could one photo be better than 100 words describing a work hazard?

Electronic signatures

Often a manager becomes a bottleneck, requiring their approval before anything can get done. Using electronic systems means that documents can be sighted by a manager electronically and signed electronically too.  This means documents don’t pile up unseen on the managers desk. Approval gets back in the field quickly.

Have the information you need ready

If you don’t have information, you can’t make decisions properly. If you haven’t the paperwork to hand and have to leave the site to get it valuable time is lost.  Technology has changed all this; with offline functionality and storage in the cloud documentation can be wherever you are. The same document can be shared across several sites and you will know they are all working off the same version.  Has the computer ever “eaten” your document? With automatic back-ups to the cloud this is no longer a problem.

 

Thinking of reducing your paperwork but wanting to remain compliant?  Siteapp can manage all your Health and Safety compliance documentation in the cloud.   A document system wherever you are.  Call now for more information.

How are we doing? Actively monitoring your safety

In the previous blog we looked at the first two steps of Worksafe New Zealand‘s risk management framework and how your smartphone could be the next big risk management tool. In this blog we will discuss how to actively monitor your safety procedures and how to review them so that the health and safety of your team is always being improved and considered.

Step 3 – Check: Monitor the control measure

You have written your health and safety documents and filed them, however Health and Safety is not just documentation it is something that should be considered every day.  You should check that the measures you put in place are being used by your workers.  Are they wearing their PPE, using the hazard identification and risk mitigation methods?  How you monitor your team is up to you but you will probably use some or all of the following:

  • Inspections, observations and walk-throughs
  • Meetings and worker feedback
  • Checklists and audits
  • Independent reviews
  • Monitoring e.g. using alarms on machinery or checking noise levels

Safety should be being talked about every day.  At your morning meetings you might have a simple checklist with questions that can answered Yes or No, and be completed on your tablet or smartphone.  A robust system will allow results to be emailed to site management so they know that their team are thinking about safety daily.

A typical Toolbox talk form might have six simple questions:

  • Any new procedures to discuss?
  • Any new issues on the site?
  • What is todays work plan?
  • Does todays work plan introduce any new safety issues, if so, what are they?
  • Have any new people been inducted into the site?
  • Has everyone read and signed the Hazard ID?

Step 4 – Act: Review for continuous improvement

You should review your work activities on an ongoing basis to identify any new risks that might need to be managed.  A review will also mean looking at things that went wrong.  All incidents should be treated as learning experiences. At a minimum these questions should be asked:

  • What went wrong?
  • Why did it happen?
  • What can be done to prevent it happening again?

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Monitor your Health and Safety

Incidents need to be recorded quickly and easily.  Photos can be uploaded to show issues clearly or injuries that may have occurred. Accurate, on time reporting is often the key to preventing things happening again.  With this information available processes can be reviewed and altered if required.

Good documentations does not automatically lead to good on site health and safety; however it is the key to monitoring safety.  Call the SiteApp team now and find out how Siteapp can can create your day to day safety checklists or record incidents. By helping to streamline your health and safety processes Siteapp gives you more time to focus on minimising the risks in your business.

Your smartphone – a new tool for risk management

A change in legislation in April 2016 means new Health and Safety responsibilities for everyone in the workplace. The new law is aimed at reducing the number of serious work-related injuries and deaths in New Zealand.  The government wants this legislation to ensure that everyone who goes to work comes home healthy and safe.  The introduction of this legislation has caused some confusion, however in essence it is about risk management.  Usually a business will not be able to eliminate all its risks but where they can’t be eliminated they do need to show that they have taken steps to minimise those risks.

Worksafe New Zealand has some great tools online to help you manage the risks.  In this blog we will discuss the first two steps of their risk management framework.

Step 1 – Plan: Identify and assess the risks

You walk around the work site.  You write a list of things that could seriously harm the health or endanger the safety of your workers and others (e.g visitors, bystanders, or contractors). These problems could be immediate or occur over a long period of time (RSI).  What do you do next?  You write them on a board or on a sheet of paper and file it; but are words always the best way to identify a risk?  In the age of smartphones, this is where a quick snap of the problem can help. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words.  By adding photos to a job specification your workers and contractors can see what the hazards are even before coming on site.

Now you have to prioritise the risk, here there are two things to consider:

  • the likelihood of exposure to that risk, i.e. how many people are exposed, how often etc, and
  • potential consequences of exposure to the hazard, i.e. whether serious injury may result.

By asking two simple questions and using a risk matrix assessment a “risk rating” can be given to each hazard. Where exposure is more likely and the potential consequences more severe the risk rating is higher.

Step 2 – Do: Eliminate or minimise the risks

How can this risk be reduced?  Include some hazard control measures and then reassess whether they have reduced the risk to acceptable levels.

Hazard control measures may include:

  • Eliminating the hazard or task totally.
  • Isolating the hazard by using barriers or distance e.g. put barriers up to keep the general public outside the danger zone.
  • Using engineering controls such ventilation to remove dust or fumes
  • Establishing safe work practices, such as restricting access to the area and keeping the areas clutter free.
  • Providing training and supervision at an appropriate level.
  • Providing the correct personal protective equipment and ensuring it is worn.

Taking photos of work site hazards may not be as interesting as taking “selfies”, but using the camera on your smartphone or tablet and Siteapp has the potential to reduce risk and make work site hazards more visible to your workers and contractors.

Keep work sites clean to reduce risk

Risk management can be as easy as taking a picture with your phone.

What jobs put your team at higher risk?  Siteapp uses colour coding for easy identification of high risk jobs. Call today and find out how Siteapp can simplify your risk assessment and keep your team in the green safe zone.

Stress and low morale can put a damper on workplace safety

Most managers, when they think of workplace safety issues, their minds go first to preventing tangible physical threats such as fires. These are the most obvious threats to employee health and wellness, and it's of course important to address them. But sometimes, the more serious risk is less physical and more mental.

Something as simple as a small interpersonal conflict can boil over and become a much larger issue.

Low morale and high stress are issues that affect millions of people daily. Something as simple as a small interpersonal conflict at work can boil over and become a much larger issue, throwing off the cohesion and collaborative ability of an entire team. Managers should look to identify the causes of such issues and prevent them whenever possible.

What causes stress at work?

While stress isn't as obvious a threat to work site safety as some of the more blatant physical hazards, it can still be a major problem. According to WorkSafe New Zealand, workplace morale can become a significant threat whenever an issue – be it a difficult work task or an interpersonal squabble – is allowed to fester.

Such troubles come in all shapes and forms. Stress might originate because an employee is physically or mentally fatigued with their work. It may stem from harsh feedback that one employee gives about another. All kinds of negative experiences that seem relatively harmless at first could potentially grow into bigger disruptions.

How managers can improve the situation

Stress will always be a threat in the workplace on some level, but it's one that managers can mitigate if they're willing to make some adjustments to the work site safety checklist, considering more than just physical hazards.

Stress can be a major problem for employees.

Work distractions are one example of an often-overlooked danger. If people are unable to focus on their work, they're likely to struggle with it, and that can boil over into larger problems. According to Forbes, the healthiest workplace culture is one in which people are proactive, addressing challenges as they come and not letting them eat away at their productivity.

Go paperless, improve morale

The best way to ensure that your staff stays healthy, both physically and mentally, is to use a workplace safety app that can keep an eye on staff members and make sure you're apprised of any potential issues. SiteApp is great for this, as it's a mobile solution that offers you complete visibility into your staff.

What's more, the app also makes it easy to share information using paperless workflow. Forget about tracking the health of your employees using piles of paperwork – those days are over. Now, you can manage health issues quickly, painlessly and in real time.

Monitoring employees can help ensure their continued safety

Most people have a negative gut reaction to the idea of being monitored at work. It has an unnerving connotation, evoking the Orwellian idea that "Big Brother is watching you." Following your employees too closely can make them feel paranoid and uncomfortable.

The hallmark of a good manager is the ability to enforce safe and responsible work practices.

On the other hand, proper oversight is important for improving their safety. The hallmark of a good manager is the ability to keep one's eye on staff members and ensure they're engaging in safe and responsible work practices. If monitoring their work is what it takes to do this, then perhaps it's not so bad an idea after all.

Changing your workplace culture

If you're going to start monitoring your employees more closely, a good first step is to change your company culture so that people expect to be monitored and are OK with it. According to Entrepreneur, this can be done – Andrew Walls, security and risk analyst at Gartner, told the magazine that the key is to be transparent about your intentions.

"You need to have the transparency, that fully informed consent, or you run into morale issues or legal issues," he said.

There's nothing wrong with monitoring people if you're doing it for their own good – i.e., to keep them healthy and safe. If you establish from the start that that's your goal, everyone should get on board.

Giving structure to the workforce

The beauty of monitoring your employees is it should help give structure to your staff and their workflows. For example, if you've found that certain people are more productive in some roles and shifts than others, you can make adjustments to workers' schedules that will help them improve their work.

Technology can help with setting optimal work schedules.Technology can help with setting optimal work schedules.

You can also use technology to help people learn safer work habits. According to Hubstaff research, that's the thinking behind the recent rise of mobile work site safety. The software company found that monitoring employees and their work habits helps protect them against both physical threats and cyber ones.

Find the right safety app for you

If you really care about the well-being of your employees, it makes sense to keep a watchful eye on them and make sure their work is going smoothly. So why not use a workplace safety app to make this happen? As it turns out, SiteApp can be precisely this app.

SiteApp offers remote monitoring capabilities. This means that even if employers and their managers aren't sharing the same work site at all times, it's still easy for them to keep in touch and share information. Work in the 21st century is dynamic and mobile – why shouldn't your safety app be much the same way?

Electronic signatures add a new level of convenience to safety documents

From time to time, just about everyone in business has to deal with one common burdensome task – signing lots of paperwork. Whether you're an entry-level employee filling out a time card or a CEO inking important contracts, everybody's got to sign something, and usually often.

If you're still penning your name on form after form, you should know it's no longer necessary.

After a while, the task can start to feel repetitive and pointless. After all, this is the 21st century, and modern technology has already made countless rote business tasks easier and more efficient. Isn't it about time signatures became one of them?

As a matter of fact, they are. If you're still tediously penning your name on form after form, you should know it's no longer necessary – especially where workplace safety is concerned.

A highly efficient and secure process

If you spend a lot of time filling out forms for safety documentation, it certainly makes sense to spend a little time searching for a more efficient way to do so. According to TechTarget, digital signatures are that way – they work just as well as a regular signature, only they're faster and more secure as well, since they address the problems of tampering and impersonation.

TechTarget noted that in many countries, digital signatures have become so popular that government bodies have granted them the same legal significance as more traditional signings. This trend will only continue as paperless work keeps gaining ground.

The benefits of going paperless

Is your business considering a transition from a pen and paper-based method of safety documentation toward more of a mobile work site safety strategy? If you're not thinking about that possibility, you probably should be. According to research from DocuSign, paperless work processes bring many benefits.

Why deal with piles of paper when you don't have to?Why deal with piles of paper when you don't have to?

Chief among them is cost saving. If you no longer have to worry about printing, scanning and couriering documents, that's a tremendous financial burden lifted right away. In addition, paperless work is often faster than its traditional counterpart, and it allows multiple stakeholders to collaborate more easily.

Embracing a better workplace safety app

The best way to go paperless with your work safety inspections is to use a tablet with a safety app. More specifically, SiteApp should be your mobile solution of choice, as it makes it easy to gather your documents and sign them electronically as well.

Why waste time physically signing forms when you don't have to? SiteApp's integrated signature capturing technology makes it easy to fill out paperwork and store it for as long as you need. It's fast, easy, efficient and bound to help your business do more with less.