Every business in New Zealand must now comply with the new regulations on General Risk and Workplace Management. Employers across the country have been actively working to ensure they are compliant, but there are challenges, including applying the regulations to lone workers. What impact do the new regulations have on your business if you have people who work alone?
The simple answer is you have the same responsibility to them as you do to all other workers in your organisation. Here are the main things you need to know, particularly in relation to emergency plans and how you respond in emergency situations.
The New Zealand Health and Safety at Work (General Risk and Workplace Management) Regulations 2016 support NZ's main health and safety legislation which is known as the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.
In general, the regulations mean business owners and the self-employed must ensure workplaces are without risks and don't impact on the health and safety of any individual. The act refers to PCBUs - Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking. In other words, the regulations cover every business, business owner, self-employed person, and contractor.
The regulations are wide-ranging and include:
As already mentioned, all parts of the regulations apply to lone workers. For example, they must be consulted with, you must ensure their workplace is safe, you must provide training, and you must provide personal protective equipment, where necessary.
One of the more difficult regulations to comply with, however, is having an effective emergency plan.
One of the requirements of the new General Risk and Workplace Management regulations is that all businesses should have emergency plans in place. The regulations outline what these plans should include, as well as specifically stating there must be comprehensive emergency plans for people who work alone.
Your emergency plans should outline how individuals and the company should respond to an emergency, including having evacuation procedures, where appropriate. Crucially for lone worker situations, the following also applies:
In a traditional business setting, this is relatively straightforward. Examples include an office, retail outlet, or manufacturing facility where multiple workers are in a single location, often with senior management present.
What happens if you have lone workers, however? How will you know if there is an emergency if the worker cannot contact you with traditional methods? Maybe there is no coverage on their mobile phone so the worker can't report an injury. Maybe they are unconscious or are being threatened by someone, such as someone robbing them. In these situations, how can you properly keep your workers safe while also adhering to the General Risk and Workplace Management regulations?
In most cases, the easiest, most practical, and the most cost-effective solution is implementing personal safety devices. Other solutions, such as regular contact procedures, leave workers exposed to risk for long periods of time before they must check-in again. Buddy systems may also not be appropriate in your organisation, and mobile phone-based solutions may not be adequate. In fact, in interpretive guidelines for the new regulations, Worksafe, NZ's health and safety regulator, says: "A communication system that has gaps in coverage or cannot be used in an emergency is unlikely to be effective."
Personal safety devices overcome these problems. The features can include:
It is important to remember the points outlined in the new regulations are, as the name suggests, regulations, not guidelines. You must, therefore, implement everything. In relation to lone workers, personal safety devices will help you do this.