Health & Safety Needs Cultural Change

Health & Safety Needs Cultural Change

This year will be ground-breaking for Health & Safety in New Zealand with the introduction of the new Health and Safety at Work Act. This Health and Safety Reform Bill has been passed by Parliament and will come into effect on April 4th.

Richard McIntosh, HG’s General Manager of  Land Development and Chairman of SafetyTogether@HG, has significant UK experience in this area. He says changing industry culture is equally important as new policies and procedures.

The new legislation is going to impact on everyone with its aim of a 25% reduction in workplace injury and death by 2020.

While the new Act will see the introduction of new policies, procedures and responsibilities, we need to recognise that the people using them aren’t necessarily going to change immediately.

To reach the 25% reduction target, equal focus is needed on changing industry culture as well as policies and procedures.

Everyone has the right to go home safely each day. It’s therefore up to everyone to have H&S front of mind.


It’s no use simply introducing more H&S paperwork and auditing to business. People become overwhelmed and regard it as just another management exercise.

It’s engagement with the workforce and colleagues that’s important.

The way to develop a H&S culture is to have positive engagement with people. This means talking about what they’re doing and exploring improvements together. Asking questions rather than instructing.

This helps people develop ideas themselves to perform their jobs more safely. An active learning approach encourages people to use a questioning technique when planning and carrying out daily tasks. It’s this approach that yields the best results and starts embedding a sound H&S culture.

Changing the way we think

It’s vital that leaders and managers demonstrate their commitment to H&S by getting out and engaging with their workforce. This is essential in changing organisational behaviour and culture and encouraging active participation from all levels.

Typical company hierarchy follows the pyramid structure with management at the top and front line staff at the bottom. But reaching a true H&S culture means turning this model on its head, creating an open and honest culture where everyone can have a say.

It’s better for those involved in the day to day activities to identify H&S improvements and work with management to drive these improvements. This leads to greater buy in from staff at all levels and is seen less as yet another corporate initiative.


Active H&S committees, employee engagement and simple tools like START cards embraced by everyone will help deliver the improvements we need. Policies and procedural changes are vital and support what we need to achieve. But it’s changing the industry culture that’s really going to drive us towards keeping people safe and healthy in the workplace.

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