How H&S Can Help Get Us Through

31 Mar 2020

OPINION: As we stay within our "bubbles" over the next four weeks for the good of our country, family and friends, many of you will be asking "how can I make the most of our time away from the site?"

During trying times, it's easy to get overwhelmed and distracted with personal and financial challenges that we all potentially face over the next few weeks. Unfortunately, this often draws our focus from the important things.

So, what are the important things? Well that's a bit of an unfair question at the moment as each person, each family and each business will have their own challenges to focus on, but as a Health and Safety Advisor, I would like to offer three ideas for the weeks ahead.

First and foremost, stay at home and be kind. Be kind to those around you, spend as much time connecting with loved ones as you can whilst practicing physical distancing, and don't forget to be kind to yourself.

Secondly, look after your team. With nearly three years under my belt as a Site Safe New Zealand Advisor, I have to say that I am fortunate to work for an organisation that reminds our learners every day of how important people are.

Thirdly, COVID-19 is abruptly reminding us all of how delicate our systems and processes are and the importance of being part of a team. We are all in this together, and we are going to need one another in the months to come, as we try to put the pieces back together. There are many ways you could support your team during this difficult time. Here are some simple ideas you could add to your list.

Keep in contact with your workers. Just as we are encouraged to maintain contact with our family, don't forget that your workers are your family too. Arrange group video calls with them if possible or send them a quick text message to see how they are coping. A simple phone call and a "how'ya doing?" can make a huge difference.

Keep them involved and ask for their input. Keep your workers in the loop. Sharing even the simplest task with your team can help take the load off your shoulders and could help make your team feel valuable and help reduce stress levels.

Don't forget to say "thank you". Don't forget to thank your team for their efforts, for their contribution and for the important tasks that they have recently done, such as isolating and securing the work site before closing off.

Lastly, use some of this available time to prepare and create a good solid foundation for your business in the months to come. Some ideas on how to do this include:

  • Having a plan for the work you will do, ideally documented so people can refer to it as needed. Be clear on what needs to be done. Determine whether you have the right process, the right equipment and the right people for the job. Make sure everyone knows their role in the job process and they know when to ask for help.
  • Understanding the potential weak points in the work you will do and put measures in place to reduce any downtime. No plan is perfect, but the more time we spend on understanding the weak points, the more time we can spend on the job and the less time we spend pausing the work.
  • Keeping an eye on your plans and progress. Monitor your work and try to fix problems before they become too serious. "Tweaking" the process as faults are found is a lot easier and a lot more cost effective that stopping the job and taking the time to rethink everything over from scratch.
  • Having the right people on the job. What we are going to need is a team that can get on with it, a team that is capable of doing the job when things run smoothly and when things change. It's not only about skill though, it's about attitude and willingness to push forward through difficult times. Develop your people and work with them to build their innovation and creativity skills, so that the job can continue, and you as the business leader can focus on future work if needed.

I believe that there are a number of good foundational principles that are used in health and safety that can help improve your productivity, quality and business culture. Relooking briefly at the above points:

  • Point one above is a Task Analysis
  • Point two is a Risk Assessment
  • Point three highlights the benefits of an effective Incident Investigation system that focuses on minor events, such as near misses, as well as serious events.
  • Point four is about continually promoting a positive team culture.

These are just four of the many principles that could help you and your team succeed in the months ahead. Perhaps yet another reason to keep putting safety first, even during trying times.

Kia Kaha,


Rodger Hollins, Health and Safety Advisor, Site Safe NZ

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