The Health and Safety at Work Act (2015) – or ‘HSWA’ as it’s known to us geeks in the business is not significantly different to the previous act in that the focus is about ensuring people are protected from workplace harm.
The new Act does however expand on many of the provisions of its predecessor (the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1991) and has a number of new role definitions and a set of obligations and responsibilities to go with them.
One of the principal aspects of the new act is the concept of a ‘Duty Holder’.
Duty holders exist at all levels of an organisation (from Governors/Directors right through to workers) and it essentially means that now every person at every level of an organisation has a degree of responsibility (i.e. a duty) for ensuring health and safety in the workplace.
Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (or PCBU’s)
The PCBU was an entirely new feature of the HSWA and it essentially refers to any person or organisation involved in running any form of commercial operation (i.e. for financial return, profit or other gain).
The following link provides some useful information and examples to help explain your obligations: https://worksafe.govt.nz/managing-health-and-safety/getting-started/understanding-the-law
Primary Duty of Care for a PCBU
Under the new act, all PCBU’s are deemed to have what is called a Primary Duty of Care.
The Primary Duty of Care is to ensure ‘so far as is reasonably practicable’ the health and safety of your workers, and to ensure that others (visitors, neighbours, members of the public etc.) are not put at risk of harm by your activities.
As the name suggests, meeting primary duty of care obligations is a fundamental requirement of being a PCBU.
Fortunately it’s not complicated; you just need to have an understanding of your operations, the work practices and methods used, and the skills & abilities of the people involved – i.e…
- What is being done
- How is it being done
- Where is it being done
- Who is doing it
- What do they already know
- What else do they need to know
- What hazards exist
- What hazards may develop
- What are the chances of any of those hazards causing harm
- What needs to be done to control (eliminate or minimise) the hazards and the risks
- What to do if it all goes wrong anyway
The WorkSafe NZ website link (above) also provides specific detail of the Primary Duty of Care requirements – they’re not included here for reasons of brevity but it is recommended you become familiar with them.
One of the many similarities between the new Health and Safety at Work Act (2015) and its predecessor, the HSE Act (1991) is the need to ‘demonstrate’ or verify.
What this means is that as a PCBU, you need to have systems in place that enable you to demonstrate or verify that you have:
- Identified all potential hazards in your workplace
- Quantified the severity of the associated risk
- Applied effective controls to adequately manage the associated risk
- Determined the effectiveness of those controls
- Communicated all of this to anyone who may be involved or affected by the operation
When faced with a list like this it can be difficult to know where to start. Fortunately, it’s not as daunting as it looks and ClarionHSM have established systems available to make it all straightforward and manageable.
Hazard identification is the starting point and is also a fundamental aspect of meeting your Primary Duty of Care
Hazard identification is a very straightforward exercise that involves thinking about or closely observing all of the key tasks/activities/processes typically carried out in your business or on your property.
The key is to break each task down into manageable chunks (e.g. ‘use of ladders’ rather than a far bigger ‘working at heights’) and then consider the various steps from start to finish and what aspects of that activity could cause harm.
It’s important to note that you don’t need to get too bogged down in detail – just start with the obvious things; you can add updates as things occur to you.
It is very important that you record your findings – either in a book or (preferably) in an electronic spreadsheet or similar format.
The information you record all contributes to your ability to demonstrate (i.e. verify) your active participation in the health and safety of your business.
Once you have a fairly good idea of all the things that could cause harm (i.e. the hazards), you can start compiling a hazard register (refer attached example).
A hazard register is essentially a chart or table that helps you set out and describe the range of hazards that exist within your business or on your property. It is also where you list all the requirements needed to control them.
To quantify the level of risk, the hazard register is used in conjunction with a simple 5×5 ‘likelihood vs consequence’ Risk Matrix (refer attached example).
The risk matrix is a very good way of objectively determining the severity of risk by ‘asking’…
- What is the likelihood of this incident or event occurring? (options range from very unlikely through to almost certain) and,
- What is the likely consequence if it does happen? (options range from minor through to catastrophic)
There are many examples of risk matrices available on the internet. The model Clarion HSM uses has a unique identifier in each of the 25 cells. This makes it possible to see exactly how the person ranking the risk viewed both the likelihood and the consequence (compared with other styles that just have either Low, Medium or High rankings).
Again, this is all part of being able to demonstrate and verify your involvement in the health and safety of your business.
By applying the risk matrix you can identify your most significant high-risk hazards and determine if the work:
- Can be done by anyone unsupervised
- Can be done by anyone with supervision
- Must be done by experienced/skilled individuals only
- Should not be done at all
An accurate hazard register takes time to collate but is an excellent ‘tool’ to have in your business. The main benefits are:
- It is an excellent way to analyse what you do and the way you do it.
- It provides clear, objective risk information.
- It ‘ring-fences’ your main risks and enables you to focus on them
- It is an excellent resource for inducting workers, subcontractors and visitors onto your site and to explain all of the hazards they’re likely to encounter and the controls necessary to keep everyone safe.
Although we’re not advocates of ‘safety by paper’, there are certain situations where record keeping is unavoidable and actually beneficial – such as:
- Worker/Subcontractor/Visitor site induction records
- Worker/Subcontractor competency assessment records
- Daily or task specific pre-start briefings
- New hazard identification
- Accident, incident & near miss reporting
Recording these processes has a number of benefits:
- Firstly it means you’re actually doing them (you need to).
- Secondly they hold strong attribute value when tendering
And thirdly, in the event of a significant accident, incident or near miss, they enable you to demonstrate that you do take workplace health and safety seriously and are committed to continuous improvement.