About

Who we are

Southern Health & Safety Limited are a consultancy business focused on helping our clients to navigate the legislative and regulatory requirements of managing their Health and Safety systems, and applying a practical and hands on approach to ensuring your H&S systems meet both the requirements as a PCBU under NZ legislation, and also making sure that your systems reflect the scope of your business and the needs of your people.

We bring more than four decades of experience across a range of industries where Health and Safety has been an integral part of how the business operates. Across industries as diverse as carpet manufacturing, rail transport and logistics, warehousing, exporting, confectionery manufacturing, food services consulting and provedoring and primary industry food manufacturing, we have a wealth of experience to help our clients on their Health and Safety journey.

Our Managing Director - David Black, brings to the business a blend of hands on experience in managing Health and Safety in both operational and consultancy roles, as well as experience in the management, development and compliance auditing of Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems (OSHMS). He has worked in roles which have presented opportunities to see Health and Safety systems that are very well managed, and also those at the other end of the scale where compliance with the legislation and regard for personal safety has been totally disregarded.

David has a natural "eye for detail", which makes his auditing of Health and Safety systems a skill set which positively contributes to his clients, in that risks to the people within the business have been identified in the audit process that have previously gone unnoticed. His detailed audit reports have been held in high regard with a number of external verification bodies, with scopes that encompass not only Health and Safety, but also Quality Assurance, Food Safety, regulatory compliance and Social Accountability audits. Many of the auditing scopes that David is familiar with are taken directly from international H&S, QA and Food Safety standards from a number of well known and international brands.

David is a Professional Level member of the New Zealand Institute of Safety Management (NZISM), where he currently holds the position of Vice-Chair on the Otago Branch Committee. He has a Level 6 Diploma in Occupational Safety and Health from the Southern Institute of Technology, and he is listed on the Health and Safety Association of New Zealand (HASANZ) Register of Health and Safety Professionals as a Generalist Consultant. With more than eighteen years experience working in companies with a national geographic spread of their operations due to the nature of the industries, David is listed to consult for clients across New Zealand, and those clients who have multiple sites to be managed.

Why Health & Safety?

David has always been passionate about Health and Safety. From his early career spanning more than 22 years in what was the NZ Government Railways Department in 1980, he was exposed to a range of operational roles where safety was paramount. He also spent more than seven years working in Head Office in Wellington, where he was involved in a wide range of planning and logistics roles, where the inclusion of safety was a key element to every project.

 When David started in his rail career in 1980, Traffic Operators were assigned copies of Traffic Codes and Rules and Regulations, and staff working in rail yards were sent to a "Shunting School", where they were trained in how to safely work with rail wagons.

This was twelve years before the Health and Safety in Employment Act was passed into legislation in 1992, and was a good grounding in working safely.

It did, however, also provide exposure to a culture whereby some people openly chose to display a disregard for their own personal safety. Throughout his career, there were too many instances where work colleagues were injured, or killed in accidents which were avoidable. 

Whether this was the catalyst that drove his passion for Health and Safety, David has always held the belief that everyone who goes to work each day deserves to return home to their family, whanau and loved ones in the same condition as when they left. 

"Carrots and Sticks"

Everyone will be familiar with the adage about motivation - using a "Carrot" or "Stick" approach. One is a positive way to encourage people to do the right thing, whereas the other is to present the consequence of not doing the right thing. This also applies to Health and Safety.

The positive aspect of Health and Safety comes in a myriad of forms -  having a workforce who are active participants in Health and Safety, and are engaged in working with their employers to ensure they have an OSHMS that keeps everyone at work safe. Employers who embrace this strategy enjoy the benefits of having more productive teams, less absenteeism for illnesses or as a result of accidents, they look out for each other, and they have a voice where they see things happening that are unsafe.

Evidence shows that employees work well for a company that they know cares about their health and safety, and is prepared to make the investment in protecting their greatest asset - their people. They become an "employer of choice", and their culture is seen by their industry peers and it can set them apart from competitors.

On the other hand, there are those businesses where health and safety is not the priority it should be. It is viewed as a cost, so it is seen as being on the wrong side of the balance sheet. Businesses that view Health and Safety in this way will often take a "risk assessed" approach, in that they may have had a number of years where no one has been seriously injured, or killed in a workplace accident within their business, so they decide the "likelihood" of an occurrence is very slim. They may choose, therefore, not to allocate necessary funding or resources to health and safety. Had they had a conversation with any business that has been prosecuted under the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015), they may reconsider if the lack of investment in health and safety is a wise decision.

There are a growing number of prosecutions being taken by the regulator against PCBUs who have breached the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015) (HSWA). This does not mean that the companies and individuals who have been successfully prosecuted, come as a result of failing to have H&S systems in place. In fact it can be quite the opposite. Some of those companies who have been prosecuted are large companies, with established Health and Safety Systems in place. The incident that has resulted in a prosecution being pursued may be due to a safety consideration that has been overlooked, or not considered in planning a work activity, but reflects on the PCBUs overarching duty of care, which is shown in the excerpt below, taken from the Health and Safety at Work Act (2015):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  The penalties and fines handed down to a PCBU in a H&S prosecution vary, and there are many factors that have to be taken into consideration. A business that has Statutory Insurance cover is not covered for fines or infringements, but may be covered for defence legal costs and reparation costs, depending on the content of the contract for insurance.

The table below shows the maximum fines that can be given if successfully prosecuted under the current legislation:

 

 

 

 

Some of the fines that have been imposed on companies that have been successfully prosecuted in New Zealand have ranged from tens of thousands of dollars up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. For more information on WorkSafeNZ prosecution cases, go to the following link:

https://worksafe.govt.nz/laws-and-regulations/prosecutions/court-summaries/   

 

You will find plenty of information to support how making the choice to positively invest in keeping your people healthy and safe begins to make a lot of sense, but that is only one aspect of the financial harm that can be done to your business.

Another cost to a company who is prosecuted under the HSWA for failures in their management of the health and safety of their people, but which is harder to quantify is Reputational Damage. One reason why it is harder to quantify, is that it is not immediately obvious, and it may come in various forms over a period of time which, if viewed in isolation, may not appear linked to a prosecution.

It may be that a preferred supplier of services disassociates itself with your company, as they do not want to be linked to you as a client, and it is a more appropriate business decision for them to walk away from you as a client. They may also not want to expose their own people to risk of harm by having them work at your site.

It may also impact on your domestic and export markets. Good news travels fast - bad news, even faster. Customers importing your products or using your services may also opt to distance themselves from your company as a means of protecting themselves from being tainted by association.

Investors, or equity partners looking to invest in, or buy your business will be hypervigilant when completing their own due diligence if you have been prosecuted for a failure to protect the health or safety of your people. Even financial lending institutions will ask about a businesses Health and Safety performance as part of their own processes.

Sometimes first impressions can tell a story about how a company is viewed - especially when it relates to how they treat their employees. An investor or buyer may rethink investing in a company where they may be inheriting a negative or toxic safety culture. Culture can be a very hard thing to change, especially if it has been embedded over a long period.

The cost that cannot be measured however, regardless of reparations awarded or fines imposed, is the cost to a family who have lost a loved one to a fatal accident. Anyone who has experienced the loss of a husband or wife, a Mum or Dad, a brother or sister, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent or a close friend will tell you that the financial or reputational cost to a company that has been prosecuted, pales in comparison to the loss of their loved ones. If for no other reason, this is the reason for businesses to make sure they do the right thing by their people. It is interesting to note that WorkSafe Victoria engaged with a Family Reference Group, when developing the new Workplace Manslaughter offence. This group was made up of members of families who had lost a loved one due to a workplace fatality, and their stories were considered as part of the process.

 Something to Note......

From 1st July 2020, the Australian State of Victoria enacted changes to their Health and Safety legislation to introduce an offence of "Workplace Manslaughter".

This new offence was introduced in order to act as a deterrent to those PCBUs who failed to meet their obligations under the H&S legislation, resulting in a workplace fatality. The new offence also reinforces how seriously the regulator views the need to continue to reduce workplace deaths.

The maximum penalties under this new offence are:

20 years imprisonment for an individual, and

$16m in fines for a body corporate

While this offence does not currently exist under New Zealand Health and Safety legislation, it is still a current and live topic of discussion.

Good News.......

While there are still some businesses out there who are not where they need to be to comply with the Health and Safety legislation, most PCBUs are well aware of their obligations and duties under the HSWA, and have Health and Safety systems in place to manage this.

PCBUs also have access to a wealth of knowledge within their businesses that can be accessed through engaging with their people. The reality is that  employees are often the best source of reference when looking to improve how your business operates.

Those businesses that embrace the principles and methodologies of Kaizen, or "Continuous Improvement" know that if there is a way to improve a work process, minimise waste, cut cost, help the environment, improve the safety of a work activity etc, quite often the best source of this knowledge are your people.

Your teams are the ones who know the work processes intimately, and may well have ways to improve how a work process is completed safely - they just need to be part of the process and be encouraged to actively participate in how your Health and Safety is managed. Employees understand that they also have a part to play in creating the right safety culture, and in helping to drive the changes needed to keep themselves and their work colleagues safe.

When we engage with our clients, we always include their people in what we do. Whether it is conducting a compliance audit, developing safety systems, or completing Risk Assessments to determine their risk profile, we talk to, and listen to your employees. After all, they are the experts in what they do!

Our approach to good Health and Safety is a collaborative one, and with your people engaged in the process, we can help you to build a positive Health and Safety culture. You already have H&S "stars" working for you - let us help you to provide them with the opportunity to shine.

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