Katherine Rich: Everyone has a role in health & safety

15 May 2016

Those in our industry know well the importance of being mindful of potential hazards in supermarkets and grocery stores, but here’s a number that may surprise you: 4529. It’s the number of ACC claims made by grocery workers last year.

You will probably also be surprised to learn there were more injuries in those stores than there were in industries such as logging, electrical services, plumbing and carpentry. In fact, the supermarket and grocery store industry was the sixth worst for injury claims – just behind the dangerous-sounding fabricated metal product manufacturing industry.

According to ACC, the most frequent claims were for cuts, infections, fractures and dislocations, strains, and burns, and were caused by lifting and carrying, falls, and falling objects.

Little wonder then that improving health and safety outcomes is one of the targets of a group led by the Food & Grocery Council and comprising retailers and suppliers. The Health & Safety Group was started by Gerry Lynch, the General Manager of Mars NZ and a new FGC Vice-Chair, along with other FGC members, and comprises representatives from Progressive, Foodstuffs NI, Foodstuffs SI and The Warehouse.

The new group wants to highlight health and safety issues right across the fast moving consumer goods industry and to look at ways of ensuring people are safer at work, and they are targeting CEOs, general managers and country heads of companies – the people who can change the culture of an organisation. But under the new health and safety laws that came into force at the beginning of April, everyone in an organisation has a part to play in the safety of their workplace and their workmates, so in reality the eventual target is everyone.

They have just published their first newsletter, and it shows just how seriously companies are treating this issue. In it, Gerry Lynch says their success “depends ultimately on whether we get more of our people home every day safely, and at the moment we are injuring thousands of people every year, so are a long way from where we want to be”. He says company leaders are the most influential people in each business who can make the biggest difference. He challenges them to explore their own safety leadership, to talk to their staff about safety and to make a commitment to a Zero Harm pledge.

Some of the top people in health and safety – Francois Barton of the Business Leaders Forum, Gordon MacDonald of WorkSafe, and Scott Pickering of ACC – also discuss how vital leadership is in getting workplaces to develop a good health and safety culture.

Then Steve Anderson, CEO of Foodstuffs South Island, and Chris Quin, Managing Director of Foodstuffs North Island, talk about their companies’ approaches and how they involve their staff.

Steve Anderson stresses how the new law is more than “procedures and ticking the boxes”, and that two principles of it are leadership and worker participation, and the tie between them is worker engagement. He gives as an example an incident where a staff member was confident enough to notify his shift manager after noticing that a driver on a delivery to their distribution centre was not acting normally. The manager contacted the driver’s company and a possible accident on either the Foodstuffs site or the site of the delivery firm or somewhere in between was averted.

“We were pleased our staff member was comfortable to report this behaviour and know the issue would be addressed,” says Steve. “Board and management can provide all the right safety equipment, staff representatives can sit on various committees, but unless the business engages staff, complacency will set in and accidents will happen.”

The enduring message, of course, is that everyone in the workplace has a role in health and safety.

(as published in Supermarket News)