What HR should be doing on Workers Memorial Day

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Workers Memorial Day honours all those who have been injured or killed in the workplace but organisations can use the day for more than just remembrance, says one industry expert.

“Worker's Memorial Day is an excellent opportunity for employers to pause and reflect on their obligations to employees and ask the question; 'Am I doing enough?’” says Garth Gallaway, a partner with Chapman Tripp.

Gallaway regularly acts for employers in health and safety investigations and prosecutions – he says the most successful organisations, from a health and safety perspective, are those that embrace their obligations as opposed to seeking minimum compliance.

In 2016, there were 49 workplace fatalities in New Zealand and 10 employees have already lost their lives on the job this year – seven of those were in the last two weeks.

“I see so many scenarios fraught with regret: a preventive approach is vital and it must be led by the employer,” Gallaway tells HRM.

Prompting compliance and driving employee engagement is also crucial to a company’s success in terms of health and safety, says Gallaway – something which can only be truly achieved with the right workplace culture.

“In terms of ensuring engagement of the workforce, in my opinion the key is to develop the right culture,” he says. “The day is an opportunity for employers to explore this aspect.

“A useful step would be to consider how culture can be enriched and whether the employer has the requisite skills to enhance the culture or whether some expert assistance may be required.”

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