Worker engagement brings health and safety benefits


Involving staff in selecting their own personal protective equipment (PPE) has paid off for one Christchurch company, which had struggled to get workers to wear the correct gear

Christchurch-based maker of the Woodsman brand of log fires, W.H Harris, sometimes had issues getting staff to wear the correct PPE, says Operations Manager Mark Streeter.

“But rather than go down the track of forcing people to wear equipment they didn’t like, we decided to involve them in choosing new PPE themselves,” Streeter says.

To do this, the company engaged Sue MacEwan, a HASANZ-registered H&S Professional with consultancy Safe & Sound Solutions.

Sue worked with a group of W. H Harris staff to find new eye protection to replace the existing equipment that fogged up and wasn’t comfortable to wear. She got the workers to test a selection of new safety glasses and visors for two weeks, then to recommend which ones the company should buy.

Since the new eye protection arrived there have been no further eye injuries at the company’s Christchurch factory, Sue says.

“It doesn’t fog up and it’s comfortable, so people wear it and their eyes are protected.”

Joseph Mercado, one of W.H Harris’ assemblers, says he and his workmates appreciated the opportunity to be involved in selecting the new eyewear.

“It was great that we were involved because it meant that the glasses and visors we got really suited our needs,” Mercado says.

Streeter says involving staff in health and safety decisions has helped the company improve compliance and improve safety. He’d recommend getting help from a health and safety professional like Sue.

“We’ve found that four to six hours a week of focused attention from a consultant has achieved more than we could’ve ever dreamed,” Streeter says.

“It’s been very, very cost effective.”


There is an ACC subsidy to help SMEs in construction and manufacturing gain access to qualified health and safety professionals through the HASANZ register. See more: