Chartered Health and Safety Professional Margaret van Schaik invites us to reflect on changing insights on health and safety risk. 

Workplace wellbeing falls under a broader scope that covers workplace health and safety. In Aotearoa New Zealand, we have labour law in place which is adapted from the Australian Health and Safety Legal Framework. The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 requires all organisations to: 1) govern and lead health and safety effectively; 2) to identify, assess and manage workplace risks; and 3) to engage with and include workers in managing health and safety. It is widely recognised, nationally and internationally, that those are the key drivers that enable good health and safety outcomes for people at work.

Do you know how your organisation is performing across these key areas?

Directors and senior leaders of large public and private sector organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand are using the SafePlus programme to exercise their due diligence requirements, by seeking independent assessment and advisory services from competent health and safety professionals. 

From a governance perspective, SafePlus, which was developed jointly by WorkSafe New Zealand, ACC and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), is a form of external assurance. Features to note are:

  • SafePlus is not a traditional Health and Safety (H&S) audit. The SafePlus Programme considers broader aspects and is designed to assess H&S performance using formal assessment criteria and assessment of H&S practices, culture and behaviour. 
  • The SafePlus key performance criteria are spread across three key elements (Figure 1):
  1. Leadership
  2. Worker engagement
  3. Risk management

Figure 1. SafePlus performance requirements (WorkSafe New Zealand)
Image source: WorkSafe

  • Ten performance requirements lie behind the key elements, each using indicators to describe an organisation’s H&S capability in relation to a maturity scale (Figure 2). 

Figure 2. SafePlus Maturity Model (WorkSafe New Zealand)

  • Knowing your stage of maturity helps you plan for improvement. Rather than having a compliance focus, SafePlus assessments identify the organisation’s current H&S maturity stage – developing, performing or leading – and provide a way to improve, with tailored guidance from health and safety professionals.

Using the SafePlus Online Tool 

The SafePlus Online Tool is a free, online self-assessment tool, available for small- to medium-sized businesses, accessed through the WorkSafe website.

This tool can provide an indication of H&S maturity and performance, and help organisations focus on key priorities. The assessment tool also includes a “deep dive” into three key critical risks and provides clarity on how well these risks are being managed, as well as providing specific recommendations for improvement on managing these risks.

The self-assessment can also be used to gain an understanding of the organisation’s H&S risks and maturity, prior to engaging an Accredited SafePlus Assessor (for a negotiated fee).  

How can SafePlus help my organisation improve health and safety?

The SafePlus self-assessment tool provides an independent assessment and focus for checking on how your organisation is doing. It may also highlight a need for more targeted and tailored advice from an accredited SafePlus Programme assessor, that can drive your organisation to improve towards the next level of performance. 

Such an assessor would carry out an onsite assessment through onsite discussions with a sample of key staff, onsite observations and verification of H&S systems and processes.  They can then use their experience, skills and expertise to provide targeted recommendations for improvement. 

Assessors who are accredited with WorkSafe New Zealand are registered Health and Safety Professionals with the Health and Safety Association of New Zealand (HASANZ). There are clear competency standards for registered assessors which enable organisations to access competent advice through the advisory services component of SafePlus—this enables continuous improvement in practices. It is recommended an organisation completes a reassessment every 2 or 3 years, which allows time to implement the tailored recommendations for improvement to drive better H&S performance. 

When an organisation enters into the SafePlus Programme, a long-term commitment to improving performance over a number of years is required. I have carried out many SafePlus assessments over the last 5 years for large corporate clients who have planned a number of assessments in advance over a 4-year-period, following the initial assessment. 

SafePlus is still relatively new in New Zealand, so I’ve listed some questions to consider, to ensure you maximise the benefits of a timely assessment and recommendations. 

When should I have a SafePlus assessment completed?

When considering a SafePlus assessment, boards and executive leadership teams should consider the following questions:

  • Do we understand the SafePlus programme and the benefits that can result from entering into it?
  • Are we using the SafePlus programme to provide independent assurance?
  • Are we committed to achieving long-term health and safety performance improvements?
  • Do we clearly understand our current state and key issues?
  • What critical risks would we like to target during the assessment for the “deep dives” into risk? Why?
  • What are our priorities for the next 2-5 years?
  • Have we carried out the online assessment to determine the key areas we need to focus on?
  • What is our budget?
  • What other activities are currently underway that we need to take into account when planning our SafePlus assessment?
  • When selecting an assessor, what sector-specific technical experience and knowledge might we be looking for? 

I would advise a client to wait to have a comprehensive SafePlus assessment if they understand their current state and are part-way through a significant work programme designed to improve their H&S performance. It’s best to implement these improvements before having a SafePlus assessment completed, in order to gain the greatest benefits. 

To be able to determine a clear result, the sample size for an assessment should be between 10% and 20% of your workforce. A planning tool, provided by WorkSafe, can be used to determine costs—this tool includes planning and preparation, onsite interviews and observations, and report writing, at standard consulting rates. For example, for a client with 500 staff across 3 branches, an indicative cost of $35,000 would apply. 

Where do I find more information about SafePlus?

WorkSafe have dedicated resources for SafePlus, for further information, check this website.

Margaret van Schaik is a Chartered Health and Safety Professional, Accredited SafePlus Assessor and the Managing Director of van Schaik (VS) Health and Safety Consulting Solutions. VS have a team of registered health and safety professionals providing specialist health and safety governance, leadership and technical consulting services across public and private sectors in New Zealand. 

Find out more

Margaret van Schaik, MInstD/CFIOSH 

Managing Director
Van Schaik H&S Solutions
HASANZ Registered Health & Safety Professional
Accredited SafePlus Assessor