Workplace Culture of Health & Safety

I have been involved in H&S training for over 20 years predominantly in the Agriculture and Construction industries. Both these industries have high levels of fatalities and injuries due to the nature of the work and the use of machinery. Staff training around the use of machinery has been seen as an important method of improving the skills and safety of workers but it is often done at the wrong time and is often done as a ‘tick the box’ requirement.

Before any topical skills training is done there needs to be a safety culture developed otherwise this training is wasted.

So how do we develop a safety culture within a workplace. The stick has been used in the past with only moderate success. If you look at the statistics of what are the dangerous industries in NZ you will discover that these are mainly young male dominated. Health & Safety awareness training needs to be focussed to young male workers and not with the purpose of ticking the box for the employer or ‘Worksafe’.

Currently the method of training is classroom based with some practical fieldwork depending on the topic. Manuals and nice videos or powerpoints don’t work with young males. Shock is what works, show pictures of the end results, interviews with people who have suffered an accident, someone their own age. The male culture here in New Zealand is a she’ll be right one along with a bit of I’m indestructible thrown in.

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The statistics for workplace injuries and fatalities here in NZ are not good, but with some good training techniques it is possible to change the culture of a group of young people who go on into their careers working at implementing a good Health & Safety culture. For me I learnt this as a young man after becoming very sick due to wrong use of chemicals and poor (or no) training.

It would be good for all workplaces to target young workers (<30 years)  and to develop good practical Health & Safety training that shows what can happen with live examples of the hazards that are there in our workplaces. Pictures and videos alone don’t work anymore it needs to be real life stories from peers who have had their lives affected by workplace incidents.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how we can change the Health & Safety culture of our workplaces.         Stay Safe.

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