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Kiwi workplaces safer but blind spots still exist

Third annual Health and Safety Leadership Survey explores how business leaders have responded in the two years since the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

Wellington, 27 June 2018 – The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 has had an overall positive impact on attitudes and practices in Kiwi workplaces, according to the third annual Health and Safety Leadership Survey released today by Deloitte and the Business Leaders’ Health & Safety Forum.

Half of the 138 directors, chief executives, senior executives and health and safety executives surveyed, from across a range of industries in the public and private sector, agree their organisations are now safer compared with two years ago. However, the survey results also suggest areas where more can be done to address crucial blind spots.

The survey was designed to mirror the Act, focussing its questions on the areas of leadership and governance, risk management, health and safety in the supply chain and worker involvement in health and safety.

Business Leaders’ Health & Safety Forum Executive Director Francois Barton says the law has helped put, and keep, health and safety on the boardroom agenda.

“In some organisations, there is now more contested debate among directors about health and safety versus other business objectives,” says Mr Barton.

“However, while half of boards take a proactive approach to health and safety, about a third appear to wait for management to raise issues. This leaves directors vulnerable under the Act’s due diligence requirements,” he adds.

In addition, the vast majority of boards also appear to rely heavily on management reports to assess performance and fewer than half of those surveyed seek assurance from external reviews or internal audits.

“This could be a source of vulnerability and suggests some boards don’t see a distinction between reporting and assurance,” says Mr Barton.

For nine out of ten survey respondents there has been a significant increase in the focus on controlling risks. And more than two-thirds report devoting at least half their time and resources on controlling risks, rather than just identifying them.

Deloitte Risk Advisory Partner Aloysius Teh says this shift is to be encouraged.

“Actively controlling risks is what ultimately keeps people from being harmed at work,” says Mr Teh.

“However, less than a third of respondents reported being extremely confident that every member of their board could name all their critical risks. And health and safety executives are much less confident than the CEOs and directors surveyed, which suggests another potential blind spot,” he adds.

Almost 70% of respondents say that the new environment has had an impact on procurement, with two-thirds now using pre-qualification schemes in their supply chains. But nearly one in six report having to comply with more than five of these schemes, increasing their compliance costs.

The majority of respondents believe workers and managers understand why active engagement in health and safety initiatives is important. However, only 13% of health and safety committees are coordinated or initiated by workers. And the results also suggest the confidence about worker engagement among CEOs and directors is not matched by those working at the “coalface” of health and safety.

“The fact that CEOs and directors are generally more confident than health and safety executives raises questions about whether their high levels of confidence is justified,” says Mr Teh.

“But the purpose of this survey is not to judge or draw conclusions about how well CEOs and directors are leading health and safety performance. Rather, we hope it will spark conversations in boardrooms, executive suites and between business and government – conversations focused on whether we are seeing signs that the intent of the Act is being translated into the right actions and practices to ensure safer workplaces,” he concludes.

The full survey report can be viewed or downloaded from


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