Is Health and Safety Strangling Your Business? - Hasmate
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Is Health and Safety Strangling Your Business?

Is Health and Safety Strangling Your Business?

Have you read about the Opua dog swimming races?

Is this just another case of red tape, blue-tape or bureaucracy gone raving mad?

I contacted the principal of Opua School and gave him a few health and safety pointers – but what was interesting was his comments about leaving the UK, to escape the health and safety red and blue-tape brigade, that was insidiously creeping into all aspects of their lives.

The impact of what the school was asked to do in the name of health and safety was to spend $1,000 on a professional health and safety plan to make $3,000 as a community project for the school. It is little wonder that the public is sceptical about health and safety.

Our question is why does this need to be a professionally developed plan, and where in the Health and Safety at Work Act is this requirement stated?

In 2005 I visited the UK, and took an interest in their health and safety systems.  My thoughts at the time were “how long will it be before New Zealand gets to the same over-the-top PC state, where health and safety is used by a few in places of authority to kill off the use of common sense?”

Not realising it at the time, but it was a case of blue-tape in action.

Health and safety in NZ is fast becoming a catch-all to strangle progress, especially when situations have little to do with the workplace.

Blue-tape is here and its active so let’s get an understanding of what it is.

What is blue-tape?

I am sure we have all heard of the dreaded red tape that ties up businesses, but the term blue-tape is something new and to be mindful of, especially when dealing with health and safety.

This term came to my attention from an article in the September/October issue of Safeguard and was raised by Francois Barton, the executive director of the Business Leaders’ Health & Safety Forum. He was giving his opinion on contractor prequalification and commented that “we are seeing a rise in “blue-tape” compliance (e.g. business-imposed requirements), with some contractors needing to spend significant sums on H&S “articulation” rather than on performance”.

To put it another way, blue-tape is individuals or businesses making and imposing their own rules in the name of health and safety.

Business-imposed requirements

Over the past five years (and especially since the introduction of the new health and safety legislation), I have seen and heard of more and more of blue-tape requirements creeping in.

A good example of this is the requirement of contractor prequalification. What is disturbing about this process is that there are about twenty businesses providing this service in New Zealand. While they are all evaluating the same principles and compliance of businesses’ health and safety systems, local bodies and large businesses are not recognising or accepting other certifications to be cross-credited.
This is blue-tape in action.

We are also seeing some qualified health and safety individuals digging themselves into management positions, becoming part of the senior management team, and then starting to impose rules and procedures that are sacrosanct to their position of authority. I am sure it is to protect their position to justify their position and to become indispensable. If this is the case, they then become non-promotable because they become the specialist in the business and too valuable to promote. Blue tape then becomes the norm.

A classic example of blue-tape in action is that of a health and safety manager of a large business who required that a group of long-term contractors undertake “contractor prequalification” – even though they all had held the ACC WSMP tertiary and primary accreditations for 15 years and had passed their ACC audit 6 months earlier. The same organisation then developed and imposed a blanket risk assessment procedure across their business and then instructed all contractors to comply, regardless of if they had their own accepted and accredited hazard and risk identification and assessment processes in place.
That’s blue-tape at work.

How often has your business been asked by another company for a copy of its health and safety policy and systems to prove that you have its health and safety processes in place? There are some health and safety personnel in organisations that will tell you that it’s a requirement of the Act to have a policy. The policy requirement is interesting as it is not a requirement of the Health and Safety at Work Act to have this policy – in fact, there is no requirement to even have a health and safety manual.
Again, blue tape at work.

Back to the dogs…

Recently my wife rang our local vet for medication for our dog. She was told by the vet nurse that our dog would have to be examined by the vet before the pills were provided. Having had over 50 years experience with working with, judging and breeding dogs, my wife challenged this and was informed by the nurse that …wait for it… “it was the law”. Yeah right!  She then challenged the senior vet on this and yes, you have guessed it, no examination was required. Not only a good sales ploy, but again blue tape in action.

My advice to all readers is to be very aware of any imposed blue-tape compliance. Challenge any blue-tape impositions and seek out qualified advice as what are the legal requirements.  Make yourself conversant with health and safety and any other acts or regulations, and be prepared to cut the blue tape.  This will help you to articulate and improve your health and safety systems, so they are beneficial for your employees and the business.

For any questions, please contact us today.