Understanding health and safety perceptions across SME’s

Understanding health and safety perceptions across SME’s

safety charter sme engagment project

The Safety Charter has begun conducting interviews with a variety of stakeholders to better understand the health and safety perspective of SME’s. This report reveals the diverse perceptions of Health & Safety across different workgroups on construction sites.

The findings are based on interviews with individuals in New Zealand, from site managers, a group of small contractors, and one-person organisations. The report highlights key insights and comparative perspectives on health & safety in construction in New Zealand.

The key findings of the project so far.

  1. There remains a large discrepancy between health and safety as planned and documented and health and safety as done on New Zealand construction sites.
  2. The smaller the organisation the less developed is the health & safety culture.
  3. Current prequalification systems are of limited practical value.
  4. Health & Safety information flow is still very top down.

The objective of this study is to gather insights on the perception of health and safety from multiple workgroups. The methodology used to conduct this study is informal with one-on-one confidential interviews that ensures honesty and transparency in response. The question topics include risks they face on site, training received, health and safety communication flow, barriers to health and safety, and what things are not currently working effectively.

Some typical responses to the questions

“I feel the systems here in NZ are very primitive (I have been working in Australia). Some companies are good using APPs and ipad databased systems however all the paperwork is very non-productive and not engaging, besides where does it really all end up? Who actually reads it?”

“They make us sit through a 20-40 min induction that is not specific to work we are doing on their site it all relates to part of the site we don’t even go near. It would be better to give us a Task specific induction and only tell us what we really need to know. We feel it was a bloody joke and we are subbies to a subbie on this site and 5 guys for 1/2 an hour is a huge expense to us.”

“There are sometimes hazard boards are onsite, but we feel they are a waste of time, no one reads them, main contractors are never onsite with us and wouldn’t have a clue what risks we have onsite. They don’t come and check on our work so it’s just a waste of time having them there.”

“All the red tape. There is so much demand put on paperwork and that side of it. Ass covering is what I call it.  The actual true benefit of health and safety which is everyone going home safely which is what we all want… just gets lost in that bureaucracy. No one cares what we are capable of (experience) as long as we have got a ticket for this and show that, and we sit there and document this and we stand around and talk about that and write it all on a piece of paper, but they really don’t care about what we can and do actually do in the real world”

“I have been in business (roofing contractor) for 25 years now and back then we didn’t have scaffolding on houses etc and health and safety was a personal responsibility you took note of your surroundings, and you thought your work through to make sure you were safe. I feel now for want of a better word we are breeding “dumb apprentices” They don’t see the risk they don’t understand what it is to think through the job they see scaffolding and don’t believe they can get hurt or fall. it gives a false sense of security to them”.

“Dumb – Sometimes procedures are written by people that have never done that task before (someone in the office that is not experienced in undertaking the work that they are writing the documentation for).”

“Big question is Why are current health and safety systems producing so much negative push back from the subbies down the chain. We all want to operate safely and responsibly but often all the compliance demands get so onerous that people start getting a negative attitude to health and safety instead of embracing it.”

“It seems to me that the whole health and safety systems have been taken over by ‘theorists’ rather than practical people and that systems are developed by paper-punchers and not people from the ‘shop floor’. Everything has got more and more complex and time consuming to the point where we spend more time writing on paper to try and demonstrate we are working safely rather than actually getting out there and DOING it!”

Recommendations from the initial interviews

  1. Improving SME health & safety needs to happen at the site level.
  2. The areas of greatest need are the Man in a van and the 1-5 Employee demographic.
  3. The Safety Charter is uniquely positioned to engage with these groups and promote visible culture change.
  4. Technology can play a significant role in reducing compliance costs to SMEs.

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