H&S - Urban myths and scaremongering

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

There has been a lot of panic about the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, and it hasn’t been helped by the scaremongering tactics that are being employed by some people. Unfortunately, some of those people are so-called health and safety consultants.
If you are intending to use a contractor you should check their skills, experience and qualifications. There are some people taking advantage of the change in legislation to make a quick buck.

I’ve been told:

• We can’t lift more than 20 kilograms
There is an approved code of practice (ACOP) in place to help you manage manual handling. The ACOP doesn’t state any maximum weight. This is something that needs to be assessed at each workplace and for different situations. The weight depends on other factors: size of the package, shape of the package, how awkward it is pick up or carry, where it is being moved, the posture of the worker and the strength of the worker, etc.

• Mobile scaffolds must be erected by certified people 
Mobile scaffolds must be erected by a certified scaffolder if more than five metres high, otherwise, they must be erected by a competent person. A competent person is one who has the skills and knowledge to carry out a particular task (Best Practice Guidelines for Scaffolding in New Zealand).

• The boss will go to jail if a worker is drinking at work and has an accident on the way home 
This has been a problem area for a  long time. Friday night drinks are an institution in New Zealand and this doesn’t need to change. What should be in place is a policy about managing drinking. The policy may include: a timeframe for the social event (start and finish time), there is no drinking in the workplace when the boss leaves, a statement that it is not acceptable to drink and drive, a list of contact numbers for alternative transport (taxis, dial a driver and so on). There should be a limited amount of alcohol, as well as soft drinks and food.

• Principals must put their houses in trusts 
There are many valid reasons for putting a house in a trust, so I am not suggesting it is a bad idea. However, it is not necessary to do so if the school and principal are taking the correct steps to manage health and  safety in the workplace. The school has an obligation to identify hazards and risks and to manage these. In fact, the duty of care has been in place for many years.

 WorkSafe inspectors will come into my home 
This is completely untrue. The act is called the Health and Safety at Work Act for a reason. WorkSafe inspectors may enter your workplace at any time. They have no authority or power to enter your home. Having said that, I am always surprised by the way kiwis do the right thing at work; wear PPE, use guarding and so on, but think it’s okay to do the same job at home in jandals and with no consideration for safety.

• Kids can’t climb trees any more 
I know this isn’t a work problem for most of you, but it is near to our hearts. We all grew up climbing trees; it’s a rite of passage. There is no need to stop kids climbing trees. However, look at the trees. Make sure they are
strong, and cut down any rotten trees. Decide if the branches are strong enough to support the weight of the kids. Look at the ground under the tree. If there is a kerb, concrete or brickwork, consider changing it. It’s okay to tell the kids which trees they can climb and which they can’t.

The situation has become so crazy that WorkSafe chief executive Gordon MacDonald put out a press release headed ‘Keep calm and keep safe’. In it he stated that “If a  claim about the impact of the new law sounds far-fetched – then it almost certainly is”. If you are not sure, ask for help from a reputable consultant such as Safewise.


Tracey Murphy - Safewise

Tracey Murphy is the owner and director of Safewise Limited, a health and safety consultancy. She has more than seven years’ experience working with organisations from many different industries. Tracey holds a Diploma in Health and Safety Management and a Graduate Diploma in Occupational Safety and Health. She is a Graduate Member  of New Zealand Institute of Safety Management and is the Waikato Branch Manager.

How can Safewise help? 
We are able to help update your health and safety information. For more information call Safewise (07 850 4387), check the website www.safewise.co.nz or email us at office@safewise.co.nz tracey@safewise.co.nz or laura@safewise.co.nz.