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CAUGHT IN THE ACT - HEALTH & SAFETY

by Simon Lord,
last updated 22/08/2016

March 2016 - Simon Lord finds new safety legislation can be a bonus for franchisors and franchisees – if you do it right

Franchisors and franchisees can’t afford to ignore a new piece of legislation that becomes law from April 4 2016. The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 will change the way all businesses and organisations in New Zealand think and operate.

The Act introduces more specific duties and regulations, key among which is the introduction of a new category of duty holder, called the Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking, or PCBU for short. This could be the franchisor, the franchisee, or even both – making it essential that franchises review their processes and manuals if they want to stay the right side of the law.

We reviewed the implications last year but now that it’s law, what does it mean? Franchisor Grant McLauchlan of CrestClean and Michelle Macdonald, managing director of health and safety specialists All About People share some thoughts.

More responsibilities, more advantages?

‘At CrestClean, we’ve always been concerned about the well-being of our people,’ says Grant. ‘In the commercial cleaning industry, you are working in different premises all the time, each of which can have their own particular risks, and you are working with chemicals and equipment which have to be properly used. That’s why we have an internationally-recognised training programme for franchisees and staff which covers safe working practices.

‘The new legislation places more responsibility on people across all levels of any business to show how their safety system is deployed and communicated across the entire organisation. It is no longer acceptable to have your Health and Safety manual gathering dust. You will be asked by your customers for proof that your people know and understand their new responsibilities.’

Michelle Macdonald comments that enquiries like this from customers should be seen as a positive. ‘If you or your franchisees can demonstrate that you have actually got the necessary processes in place, then it can give you a competitive advantage. We have had clients win new business because of it.’

Not just lip service

Grant says that, just as businesses have had to address environmental concerns and sustainability issues in recent years, business leaders also need to embrace safety. ‘It’s not something you just pay lip service to ­– having a fully-deployed safety system actually makes business better for both our customers and our franchisees.

‘With over 500 franchisees, many of whom employ staff themselves, CrestClean is a large training organisation in itself. Fortunately, safety has always been part of our culture, which has made our preparation for compliance under the new safety legislation a stepping stone rather than a long jump. Crest has had to formalise and document our SafeClean® Health, Safety, Environmental Management System (HSEMS). SafeClean is an IT-based management process within our CRM system that tracks any incidents or accidents, immediately notifying the appropriate people within the organisation and setting out workflows that manage the investigation and resulting recommendations.

‘SafeClean HSEMS ensures all activities are closed off and reported to our customers. It enables reporting to the directors and gives a bird’s-eye view of how safely we are operating. Health & Safety is an important agenda item at all board meetings and we are continually looking at how we can improve how we operate in this regard.’

Franchises ideally placed to capitalise

Michelle says this is a sensible approach. ‘Anyone who has any power over the decision-making of a franchise group is a PCBU under the Act, as are their franchisees. It’s become a core business function – you can’t avoid it, so you just have to get on and do it. Sadly, there’s a lot of passive resistance and many organisations have done little to date, but franchises are actually ideally placed to capitalise. They already have the training systems and support in place to help their franchisees upskill, and better processes lead to increased productivity and effectiveness. It’s another advantage of being a franchisee rather than an independent.

‘Franchisees are also highly aware of the value of the brand they have invested in, so they won’t want to see that brand damaged by bad publicity about accidents or litigation.’

Customers appreciate communication

So how has a company like Crest gone about implementing its Health and Safety systems? According to Grant, it’s all about training and communication.

‘Without training you cannot have a viable safety programme and culture,’ he says firmly. ‘It’s important to have a clear and transparent communication channel as safety, while directed from the top, is largely played out at the operational coal face. Having our operational team trained and upskilled in safety not only protects our people but gives our clients alternative eyes and ears into how their own business operates.

‘Our franchisees and their staff are trained to look for any new site-specific hazards, to report near misses and any broken equipment. Most importantly, they are encouraged to come forward with any new ideas on how to improve the way we operate. This requires an inclusive business environment where people feel free to speak.

‘While I like to think we have always had a very good customer care programme, SafeClean has improved the number of customer touchpoints, which are now captured, documented and made available to all stakeholders. These include scheduled site audits, documented task observations, toolbox meetings and, of course, six-monthly franchise performance reviews, which are complemented with ongoing upskilling. All of these are recorded within SafeClean and are very good for maintaining customer relationships – feedback shows they appreciate the increased activity and transparency.’

Payback Time

‘While there has been a large and ongoing investment in developing SafeClean, it is proving to be exactly that – an “investment”. We are seeing strong enquiry from corporates, schools and government departments as they review their entire supply chain. They are all seeking contractor pre-qualification to ensure safety compliance and our recognised and auditable safety system is making CrestClean more attractive in the marketplace.’

Michelle Macdonald says that although CrestClean operates in a sector where health and safety have always been a recognised concern, the new Act applies to every business in every industry. ‘It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about issues created by wet floors or boxes piled up in retail outlets or baristas suffering RSI from spending too long at the espresso machine without breaks, you have to identify the issues and manage the risk. The Act means doing nothing is not an option – so can you make life better for your people, your clients and your business because of it?’

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