Speaking Up on Health and Safety in the Workplace

Posted by Craig Thornton

Will WorkSafe New Zealand's "Use Your Mouth" Campaign Drive Down Workplace Injuries?

WorkSafe New Zealand has recently released a really interesting campaign for worker safety.  It's called Use your mouth. The goal of the campaign is to encourage workers throughout New Zealand to speak up about health and safety issues in the workplace.

It is vital that both employers and employees create a culture where people feel confident to speak up about risks in the workplace.

The campaign hopes to encourage workers to speak out to help correct workplace behaviour and to report risks or concerns to their superiors.


This campaign focuses on the following areas:

Humour has been used as a way to get the message across. This strategy aims to make the message more memorable and likeable to the audience.

Here at Mango we agree fully with this initiative. We have been saying this for years. Our product is all about encouraging participation and involvement from all your employees. Getting them to speak up and participating in your safety system means that you get an opportunity to listen and get an understanding of what is happening at the "coalface" of your business.

The dilemma, however, is that employees are reluctant to talk about safety because it may conflict with productivity. Managers and Supervisors are mostly measured by productivity. Anything that conflicts with productivity (like safety) may not be taken seriously.

If you read the Pike River Royal Commission Report you can see that productivity and safety in the mine were in conflict often. The report quotes "At the executive manager level there was a culture of production before safety at Pike River and as a result signs of the risk of an explosion were either not noticed or not responded to."  So even if people speak up then their reports aren't responded to because productivity was the priority. [Note: Pike River Mine Disaster was a mining tragedy where 29 people were killed in a mine explosion in New Zealand in 2010].

Therefore, it's imperative that even if an employee uses their mouth and speaks up, action needs to be taken on what they have highlighted. For example, at Pike River again "In the last 48 days before the explosion there were 21 reports of methane levels reaching explosive volumes". Ignoring someone speaking up can have devastating effects.

So just getting employees to speak up is not enough.  Addressing their safety concerns must be taken as seriously as achieving productivity results.

The jury is out on whether this campaign will reduce injuries. WorkSafe New Zealand has a target of reducing fatal and serious non-fatal work-related injury in New Zealand by 25% by the year 2020.  That's a tough target to achieve but this campaign is a good start. 

You can find more information about WorkSafe New Zealand's campaign here: Use Your Mouth Campaign


You need to think about and answer these questions for you business:

  • Will you get behind this campaign? 
  • How do you discuss safety with your employees?
  • Do you treat employee conversations on safety with a high priority?
  • What do you do about safety concerns that your employees have?
  • Does you have conflict between safety and productivity?




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Tags: Health & Safety, Workplace Health and Safety