28 February 2018 / 9:29 am

Behavioural safety crucial to reducing workplace injuries

Carole Peterson, a health and safety specialist consultant to HR company Brannigans, says it’s crucial that companies comply with health and safety legislation – but equally important that they embed behavioural safety into their culture.

Workplace safety extends far beyond the absolutely necessary compliance regulations now in force.

If we want to keep our people safe and well, there’s not a magic button to press or just one thing to do to reduce injuries. Instead we need to operate in a number of areas that all interlink.

The areas that need to be addressed are:

  • Leadership and engagement
  • Safety management system
  • Operational safety delivery
  • Wellbeing
  • Injury management

Too often I see businesses that think that putting in a safety management system (ie policies and procedures) will keep people safe or meet their H&S At Work Act 2015 obligations.  Keeping your people safe is about engagement and behaviour and employers need to do more than just have the systems in place.  Get your people involved in safety and show them that working safe is something that is important to the CEO and all levels within the organisation.  It is very important to “walk the talk” and be an authentic leader.

It’s great when employers are open to critically evaluating their own behaviour and underlying messages around safety and the workplace culture.  From this, strategies have to be developed to support the culture they want in the business.

Managers need support and coaching in how to engage with staff to promote the changing of behaviour.  Telling people “not to do it” will never work – it only works for a short time. Regular safety conversations, walkarounds and active engagement with your workforce helps to evolve your safety culture to one where ‘we all look out for each other.

It’s about showing you care – the little things are just as important as the big programmes you run to support wellbeing.  Show you care about your people and deliver ways of engaging them in managing their own wellbeing.

For instance, smallgoods manufacturer Hellers Ltd has introduced a programme of moves and stretches to music every day for its production staff.

Many of Hellers staff are involved in physical and repetitive jobs so the stretching programme aims to reduce discomfort and manual handling injuries. Already the severity and number of injuries has reduced.

The initiative, which has now been running six months, is dubbed Moves@Hellers and aims to ensure production staff are warmed up for the day ahead.

We brought in a personal trainer to lead the exercise on the floor, and chose music to support the initiative – the first song we used was ‘Moves like Jagger and managers were active in supporting the “Moves.”

Stretches are limited to those exercises which can be performed in wet floor environments, and allow for PPE (personal protective equipment), including plastic aprons and gumboots to be worn

This initiative is a prime example of what good employers can do to promote wellbeing and safety – in this instance it’s targeting the common causes of discomfort and fatigue, which can be as simple as moving your feet to prevent manual handling injuries.

We don’t see the All Blacks or the Crusaders go out on the field without warming up – so why do we think it is ok to go straight down on the floor and start work without stretching?

Hellers Ltd is New Zealand’s largest smallgoods manufacturer and is a leading producer of bacon and ham. It has plants in Christchurch and Auckland, and recently began exporting to Australia and the Pacific Islands.


  • Carole Peterson is a health and safety specialist consultant to HR company Brannigans and also works with Hellers. carole.peterson@brannigans.co.nz