Award-winning hotel explains H&S success

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The HR head of an award-winning Queenstown company has spoken out about the firm’s approach to health and safety, saying employees are integral to its ongoing success.

“It’s about employee behaviour and the opportunities available to them to be part of making their workplace better,” says Kerryn Boniface, people and culture leader at The Rees Hotel.

“It’s a shared workplace where we can all contribute and make every aspect of the job safer and so much more enjoyable,” he continues.

Boniface’s comments echo last year’s amendments to the Health and Safety at Work Act which stresses the importance of employee participation and obligates all businesses to have worker engagement practices – regardless of their size or level of risk.

“We are a low-risk industry but we don’t ever want to be in a position where we’re complacent about our health and safety culture or thinking that we don’t always need to be conscious, engaged and actively continuing our progress,” he tells HRD.

Earlier this year, the hotel achieved tertiary level status in ACC’s Workplace Safety Management Practices – a program which puts an emphasis on continued improvement and employee engagement.

“As an example, one of the guys in our maintenance team actually designed and built a device that makes carrying sofas within the hotel much easier by reducing the stress and strain of lifting,” reveals Boniface.

“There is so much that people can do,” he continues. “Even the simple things like identifying a new floor mat that needs to be added to protect from slips, trips or falls.”

However, encouraging staff to get involved in health and safety isn’t always easy and Boniface says the hotel has employed a multi-faceted approach to drill in the message.

“We embed the message through induction, through our handbook, on our Facebook page and our employee channels where staff post news and information,” says Boniface. “It’s ingrained in our core values about staff really being the difference makers.”

When employees do draw attention to an issue, Boniface says the business does its best to keep them involved in the decision-making process.

“We work together and we try to encourage our team to come up with a solution or to support them in a solution,” he says. “It’s about using all the abilities and skills that all the different people can have and can bring to improving things.”

While employee engagement can help drive health and safety improvement, Boniface says workers should also serve as an inspiration to companies to keep improving.

“Health and safety is so important because it’s about our people,” he stresses. “Looking after our team members and our guests – that’s what matters the most to us.

“Obviously we have a legal obligation and we want to be legally compliant but it’s about actually caring for people, it’s about us not wanting to ever have a situation where we have to tell a family that someone’s injured or something serious has happened to them.”

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