Safe and Healthy Workplace
Every employer should be very familiar with the New Zealand law relating to this topic, so it begs the question “why is it included in the policy?”
As with the law, the NZEE Human Rights policy recognises the importance of employees, and anyone else visiting a work site, to be free from harm. However, its inclusion in the policy is a reflection of Article 3 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, namely the right to life. Whilst compliance with NZs health and safety legislation is a prerequisite to the broader obligation on a business to respect that right, the policy also encourages NZEE members to do better than the law provides. By doing so, you can enhance protections to workers.
The policy also encourages ongoing engagement with employees over existing safe work practices as well as exploring with them better and safer working methods. Such engagement creates a shared responsibility as employees also need to understand and act on their own duty of care towards those they are working alongside of, as well as creating a work environment where employees feel free to raise health and safety concerns at any time with managers and supervisors.
It is best practise to regularly review employee and onboarding training for new staff to ensure it reflects your most recent decisions around work practices, keep dialogue open with staff and help them both understand their requirements but also that they are able, from their own experience, to help enhance your health and safety practices.
Those responsible for the implementation of your workplace safety requirements need the appropriate training and support so they are able to act quickly on any concerns raised, or at-risk processes they observe. As the NZEE Human Rights Policy itself states, the key is to address and remediate identified risks. The pathway to that is two-way communication.
Health and safety training requires regular repetition and enforcement. Employees need to the trained and refreshed on the safety requirements of their role, and they also need to understand that failure to adhere to the rules in place to keep them and others safe can impact their continued employment.
An element often forgotten in the wording of the Policy is the inclusion of the word “healthy”. This includes the physical but also the mental health of employees. Services can be accessed through NZEE to help you find the resources you need to address challenges mental health issues can raise. Again, managers and supervisors should be given training to help them spot signs of employee distress and act promptly to offer support.
A safe and healthy workplace is a journey not a destination.
Tūhana Business and Human Rights is NZEE’s Human Rights Foundation Partner, to help members implement the UNGP framework in their operations and help identify and prioritize the risks they pose to people through their own business operations and supply chain and develop responses that look to prevent, mitigate, or remedy human rights issues.