It’s been almost three months since the new Health and Safety act came out, and the reaction has been as expected, with most people embracing the change, and others still wondering why the need for it?

Coming from a small business background, both as an owner and as a supplier, I have seen and heard a lot of opinions ranging from the well thought out to the ridiculous.

So having sat back for a bit and listening to all the various thoughts and opinions, all while doing some work with NZ’s largest premium Health and Safety Training Organization (Worksafe Reps), I have a few things to share myself.

New Zealand has always been a land of ingenuity with the ‘number 8 wire mentality’ firmly entrenched into our history. We are a country of hard working, weather worn doers, and we sneer in the face of danger, we laugh off pain and we work through discomfort. Because our grandparents back in their day walked to school for twenty miles in bare feet through the snow while still dark… all to the cry of – She’ll be right mate!! Because, we are tough buggers!

But are we? Are we tough buggers with skin of leather, bones of granite and joints of steel? Well, yes in some regards we are, but to me it is this strength that is also our biggest weakness.

You see, this attitude comes with some peril, and here is how.

  • A small business owner working 12 hours a day… she’ll be right mate, I’ll sleep when I die.
  • A small business owner not eating well… she’ll be right mate, I’ll grab a pie on the drive home.
  • A small business owner gets sick… she’ll be right mate, I’ll sweat it out at work.
  • An employee covers for the boss… she’ll be right boss, I got your back.
  • An employee doesn’t quite have the experience on a piece of machinery… she’ll be right, the boss will be proud of me for not disturbing him.
  • An employee makes a mistake and gets seriously injured… she’ll be right… ACC will cover that.
  • Job gets delayed… she’ll be right, the client won’t mind.
  • Client minds, terminates contract, business owner is forced to lay staff off and business goes into decline… she won’t be right!!

Yes, we are hard workers, yes we care about each other, yes we want to do well. I believe most employers care for their clients, their business and their staff. But mistakes do happen, shortcuts are made, and people are dying or being seriously injured in the workplace.

This is not because of stupidity or disregard to employee safety (most of the time), it is because of our tough attitude, our she’ll be right mantra, and also our can do attitude, and because 95% of our businesses in NZ are small to medium sized, and are working long hours and doing what ever it takes to get the job done for a client, and be successful in business.

So here is my message to all business owners or managers. Spend a few dollars (it’s not expensive), put some preventative measures in place and you could be surprised with how effective you become, and how productive your employees are, and how much better your business will be.

Health and Safety is not about fines and scare mongering, it is about better business practices to make better businesses… so you can enjoy more success, and more importantly go home every day knowing your work mates are safe, healthy and thoroughly enjoy working with you, and that your clients are raving about your business culture and performance.