Skip to Content, Skip to Navigation

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Shaking it up

The new SafePlus toolkit has recently been launched. MALCOLM MACMILLAN describes how it works and says it is set to shake up health and safety culture in New Zealand.

SafePlus is a new, voluntary, nationally recognised Government-endorsed definition of what good health and safety looks like beyond minimum legal compliance. It’s a joint initiative developed by WorkSafe New Zealand, ACC and MBIE in response to the 2013 report from the Independent Taskforce, which recommended the Government introduce a new voluntary health and safety rating scheme as part of a broad package of reforms.

In the beginning, there was a focus on SafePlus (or as it was known then, the Safety Star Rating scheme) being a voluntary incentive initiative to recognise, reward and support businesses to improve their health and safety performance. However during the design and testing process, which included a 2016 pilot with 95 businesses across seven different sectors, it became clear SafePlus needed to be different from existing health and safety compliance audit products.

Traditional compliance audit products, which predominantly focus on documented management system policies and procedures, haven’t proved that effective in New Zealand when it comes to improving health and safety outcomes.

In the development of SafePlus, an extensive international review of health and safety initiatives was undertaken. We found that international best practice has Leadership, Worker Engagement and Risk Management at its heart. Having tested this with New Zealand’s regulatory system and business sector for relevance and effectiveness, they became the backbone of SafePlus.


The aim of SafePlus is simple – to produce safer, healthier and more productive work-forces. A business implementing SafePlus should start to see an improvement in productivity due to safer, healthier workers, which also boosts its reputation as a good employer. It can also provide a degree of business confidence that their efforts to improve their health and safety are targeted in the right place, and that they’re investing in health and safety wisely.

For workers, it helps reduce the likelihood of workplace accidents and illness, and allows them to feel more confident that their employer cares about their health through increasing worker engagement, participation and visible leadership.

For Government, it helps contribute to a more productive and efficient workforce to help drive the economy and health and safety culture and behaviour change in New Zealand businesses.


SafePlus is available as three separate products:

  • • 
    resources and guidance (free; available now);
  • • 
    an independent on-site assessment and advisory service, delivered by the private market (fee-based, available now); and
  • • 
    an online self-assessment tool (free; available mid-2018).

The initial resources and guidance are freely available for businesses and health and safety experts to download and apply to their existing health and safety practices.

The on-site assessment and advisory service is centred on Government-accredited, trained, independent assessors, who go into a business to assess its health and safety performance and provide specialist guidance and advice on how to improve. (It is recommended that a business opts for a SafePlus accredited assessor to assess its business. The cost is determined by the market. If you wish to hire an accredited assessor, visit and go to the public register section of the website.)

The online self-assessment tool will be a free desktop and mobile-friendly web application that businesses can use to measure their own health and safety – and receive guidance and advice to support their improvement over time. The first version of this tool is being designed for small to medium sized businesses, with further development planned to develop the tool for larger and/or higher risk sector businesses.


At the heart of SafePlus are ten performance requirements fundamental to achieving good health and safety performance. These are organised into three core areas – leadership, worker engagement and risk management – and are underpinned by continuous improvement. A business’s health and safety performance is assessed against a three-level maturity scale – Developing, Performing or Leading.

SafePlus uses a behavioural evaluative assessment approach, with a heavy focus on observation and interviews of workers at all levels of a business, referred to as a “deep dive” analysis. The role of SafePlus within a business is to reveal issues that may otherwise be hidden. It brings workers at all levels of the business to the forefront of defining what health and safety looks like. By adopting this approach workers feel they have ownership of the decisions that impact them.

This participatory approach ensures health and safety is woven throughout workplace culture. Understanding what people feel and think, and how they behave and why, is important to get a complete picture of a business’s health and safety performance and where it can improve.

This behavioural evaluative approach is a key point of difference when comparing SafePlus to traditional compliance audit products – including current and upcoming ISO standards. It focuses on the people inside a business and is not just a “tick-box” compliance exercise. SafePlus is not a replacement for ACC’s discontinued WSMP and WSD products. It isn’t a rating scheme either – however businesses do receive an “illustration of performance” so they can measure their improvement over time.


SafePlus will make a positive difference to health and safety in New Zealand through supporting a workplace culture change. By using a behavioural evaluative assessment approach, it digs deep into a business to assess its culture, values, perceptions, resources, practices, behaviours and attitudes towards health and safety, to help ensure it can go on a journey of performance improvement.

If you’re committed to striving for health and safety excellence beyond minimum compliance, think of SafePlus as a key part of your business strategy. There is no other Government-endorsed health and safety product like it on the market.

An assessor’s view

“As SafePlus requires evaluative judgements, assessors need to be experienced, capable, perceptive health and safety practitioners who can build rapport with workers, managers and leaders to understand their perspectives of health and safety practice in their workplace.

“Assessors also need to be able to listen and reflect on what they hear and see. They delve deeper to uncover underlying influences that drive work processes, practices and workplace culture. Once gaps and underlying influences are identified, assessors need the knowledge and experience to provide businesses with recommendations, advice and guidance to help them improve.

“A SafePlus assessor is focused on finding out what is happening in a business, and the reasons why, by engaging with people and observing work. While some documentation might be reviewed, it is not the focus of the assessment, as can be the case with audit approaches.

“The Assessor takes a qualitative approach to gathering information from a range of sources (including many conversations) and looks for themes that are then mapped back to SafePlus requirements, rather than looking for conformance against a set of audit standards.

“Another key difference is that an auditing role usually involves identifying what needs to be improved but not how, whereas a SafePlus assessor’s role is to provide tailored advice and guidance.”

Malcolm MacMillan is SafePlus programme manager.

comments powered by Disqus

From Safeguard Magazine

Table of Contents