How can you protect your business from the potentially larger health and safety fines that are expected?
On 23rd May 2017 we witnessed the first sentencing under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSW Act). In a judgment released the next day the court fined the company $100,000 and ordered reparation of $37,500. Budget Plastics therefore, became the first business to be penalised under the HSW Act, after a worker had his hand partially amputated due to an incident on 6 April 2016. The total of the fines and penalties handed down by the Palmerston North District Court came to $138,500, yet experts are in agreement that these fines are only likely to increase in future cases. Indeed, a leading top-tier law firm, MinterEllisonRuddWatts (MERW), noted that “The first sentencing under the act shows that the court will impose higher fines moving forward, which reflects the five-fold increase in maximum fines available under the Act”.
With this backdrop of increasing fines ahead, what steps can you take now to help safeguard your organisation?
Monitor and report on your equipment
In terms of cases like the one above that relate to faulty machinery (which was known about prior to the lifelong injury occurring), the lesson is relatively simple. As Brett Murray, WorkSafe’s General Manager Operations and Specialist Services, commented, “The lesson here is to fix machinery as soon as risks are identified. If you can’t fix it, then take it out of service until it is safe to use.”
The take away here is that equipment and machinery needs to be regularly monitored and inspected, and the findings recorded.
Help keep your staff aware
When it comes to health and safety, the old saying is definitely true, prevention is as good, if not better than, a cure. As the responsibilities and liabilities under the Act rest ultimately with those at the top, those employed by them may have no real idea of what their responsibilities are, and what they should be reporting.
With that in mind, it makes sense to try to create a culture of awareness around the occupational risks that your employees are exposed to, be they in a factory, a warehouse, on a farm, or even in an office. The obvious way to achieve this is through training which is up to date with the current legislation. Whatever training provider or method you choose, it is important that this is more than just a one-off. It needs to be ongoing and relevant. This is why online options such as this workplace health and safety training course can be valuable. Not only can you be confident that it is up to date with the current laws, but it is also affordable, simple to roll out across an organisation, and allows easy tracking of everyone’s level of understanding, and is a very affordable way of doing it annually. It is the reporting function of Safetrac that is where the true organisational value is..
As well as training, you’ll need to ensure a culture of ongoing information and incident sharing to help increase day to day awareness. In regular meetings, or through your organisation’s communications, it is worth sharing some health and safety guidance and highlight areas of potential risk within your operations, to all employees.
With no doubt more prosecutions to come, if you have not already, now is definitely the time to start investing in creating the right awareness within your organisation.