Worker Engagement

Worker engagement and participation is about talking with your team and having meaningful discussions about health and safety; this features heavily in the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA). So if you are the person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) then you must take control of this process; if you are a worker, then read on to see what you should be getting involved with.

What is worker engagement and participation?

The HSWA asks those in charge of a workplace to carry out worker engagement and participation with their team. If you are a PCBU you are expected to:

  • Share information
  • Give workers the opportunity to share their views and contribute to decision making
  • Advise workers of any outcomes and decisions you have made

Participation is a way that workers can raise health and safety concerns, suggest improvements and make decisions that affect health and safety. When working well, participation means:

  • Firstly, workers know how to participate and report issues to the PCBU
  • Workers have the opportunity to raise issues or suggestions
  • The PCBU considers and responds to the workers quickly

Are you a PCBU?

In case you’re unsure if you are a PCBU or not: A PCBU or 'person conducting a business or undertaking' is one of the key terms introduced in the new Act. Despite the name, the PCBU is not necessarily one person. In most cases a PCBU will refer to a business entity, such as company or organisation.

A PCBU may also be an individual in the case of someone running their own business. For example a builder operating as a sole trader will be a PCBU.

Why is it important?

Worker engagement and participation helps you build a good health and safety culture. A strong culture leads to a healthier and safer workplace. This ultimately leads to increased productivity, less down time and costs you less as you don’t need to get replacement team on board if someone gets hurt.

If you get workers involved they can often come up with the best solutions as they are the ones carrying out the job every day. In addition, if they have helped with the process they are more involved and engaged at work. Often this means they will work harder and turn out better work for the team.

What must workplaces do?

Exactly how a business carries out engagement and participation depends on the size of the organisation and the type of work is carries out. However, the law is clear, a PCBU must regularly engage with workers in a deliberate and planned way. This means that it is good to have formal ways to contribute in addition to the informal ways that many businesses offer. There are a number of ways you can carry out worker engagement and participation, some ideas are:

  • Health and Safety Reps (HSRs)
  • Health and Safety Committees (HSCs)
  • Staff intranet
  • Allow workers to raise issues in person with the manager
  • Toolbox talks / pre-start meetings: include a Toolbox Talk as part of your regular prestart meeting. Toolbox meetings are an opportunity to provide positive feedback for safe actions, hard work and initiatives. It’s also important to avoid criticism and acknowledge everyone for their contributions. The meeting shouldn’t be a lecture, but a chance for engagement with the team. Check out the other Practical Safety Advice pages for ideas. There’s also a free Toolbox Talk minutes template as part of our Site Specific Safety Plan. Members can download Toolbox Talks on specific subjects for free if they log on to the portal. Another good idea is to ask one of the experienced workers to lead a Toolbox Talk on a topic in their area of expertise.
  • Create a “suggestions box” as a convenient way for workers to suggest health and safety improvements
  • Surveys
  • Workplace inspection
  • Include health and safety as a regular agenda item during team meeting: This gives workers a regular opportunity to share their ideas and observations and an opportunity for you to share important or new information with them.
  • Keep workers informed of the outcome of incidents that they have reported: people are likely to get involved in health and safety if they can see that you value it and are following through on recommendations and improvements. Remember to let workers know about outcomes and decisions in a timely fashion wherever possible.
  • Reward good reporting: encourage workers to report safe actions, incidents and observations by providing recognition such as a prize or work shout. Or they can nominate a workmate who has acted safely/been a safety role model etc

Real Steel case study

Check out this WorkSafe NZ video on how Real Steel in Upper Hutt, make worker participation and risk management easy.

Want more help? Our Leadership in Safety course is designed to help you engage with workers and contractors on site. 

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