Board Member Andy Loader comments on "Best Practice"

We often hear the term “Best Practice” used in the workplace but do we know what it really means?

The definition of “Best Practice” is as follows:

          “Best practice is a method or technique that has been generally accepted      as superior to any alternatives because it produces results that are        superior to those achieved by other means or because it has become a     standard way of doing things, e.g., a standard way of complying with      legal or ethical requirements”.

In simple terms this means finding and using the best ways of doing a task that have been accepted within the industry that you work in as the standard that should be reached.

How do we go about finding the best way of doing a task?

We can look at the other successful companies in our business sector and see how they are doing the task or we can look for any commonly accepted standard operating procedures or regulatory standards that are in use in our business sector which are used to achieve business objectives. 

Best practices are a large part of accreditation standards such as ISO 9000 and ISO 14001.

Applying the appropriate Best Practice standards to your business will enable you to work to objective criteria to achieve quality outcomes.

There are some criticisms of the term "best practice." There are claims that the work necessary to decide what is, and to practice, the "best" is rarely done.

This criticism is to some degree backed up by the regulatory requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to take “all steps so far as is reasonably practicable”.

The main reason for this is that best practice will differ depending on the individual task being undertaken and according to the environment in which it is being undertaken.

In New Zealand industry the rate of injury and death is unacceptably high, and significant improvement needs to be made. The fact is that in spite of considerable effort by, and even successes in, some sections of industry, the performance overall is far short of best practice.

So what are the Basic Principles of Best Practice and how should we implement them?

          Safety in Design

Safety in design means the integration of control measures early in the design process to eliminate or, if this is not reasonably practicable, minimise the risks to health and safety throughout the life of the structure/task being designed.

The designer must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the plant, substance, structure or task is designed to be without risks to the health and safety of any person that uses it, handles it, stores, constructs it, manufacturers it, undertakes it or who may be exposed or affected by the plant, substance, structure or task.

Staff providing inputs to the design must be technically qualified in their area of expertise, and have an understanding of the safety legislation, codes and standards which apply to their design.

It is important that Safety in Design is presented as integral to the design at the earliest stages of discussion with other stakeholders so that any extra resources are identified and budgeted for in terms of cost and time.

          Safety Leadership

Develop a Health and Safety Management System.

Appoint Health and Safety Leadership Team.

Include safety requirements in all construction documents.

Ensure adequate trained and certified staff are employed as required by the project being undertaken.

Use only suitably qualified sub-contractors as required by contract specifications.

Demonstrate management commitment to safety by including safety as one of the important KPI’s for all management positions.

Carry out management led site inspections.

Ensure regular toolbox meetings and Health and Safety committee meetings are held and any recommendations are actioned ASAP.

Recognise and reward good safety leadership.

Identifying and Managing Risk

Set up a Risk Register.

Record risk information.

Implement systematic risk management processes.

Record residual safety risk information in the risk register.

Communicate safety risk information to all relevant stakeholders.

Record safety information relevant to all operations.

Establish a system for all stakeholders to report hazards.

Stakeholder Engagement

Ensure all staff are trained to carry out their respective tasks and hold any required current certifications to carry out those tasks.

Communicate safety commitment to all stakeholders via posted copies of current dated copy of company Health and Safety Policy signed by Managing Director of company.

Communicate safety risk information to all stakeholders.

Ensure there is an adequate process for notifying all stakeholders of any changes to the Health and Safety System documentation and any relevant changes to standard operating procedures.

Provide regular safety performance feedback to all personnel on site.


Continuous Improvement

Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) for safety.

Undertake regular measurement of project safety performance using leading indicators and lagging indicators.

Regularly analyse safety performance data.

Capture and record lessons learned to improve procedures for future work.

Monitoring and Compliance

Conduct regular site inspections.

Ensure there is a system in place to verify that all recommended remedial actions identified in any inspection report have been carried out and signed off by the person responsible.

Implement senior management-led ‘safety walks’.

Promote safety management practices within subcontractors workforce.

Implement safety mentoring system for subcontractors if required


Develop a system to ensure that all documents are current and copies are available for all stakeholders that may need access to them.

Documents that should be held available to all stakeholders on site include:

  • Health and Safety Management System that includes but is not limited to;
  1. a.    Hazard Register
  2. b.    Risk Register
  3. c.     Accident Register
  4. d.    Standard Operating Procedures
  5. e.     Site Safety Rules
  6. f.      Emergency Procedures
  7. g.    Emergency Contact List
  8. h.    List of qualified First Aiders on site and H& S Reps
  9. i.      Location of First Aid Boxes, Fire Extinguishers and Emergency Equipment
  10. j.      Traffic management Plan if required
  11. k.    There should also be a regular review process to ensure that all documentation is current.

 In summary although “Best Practice” may give a definite criteria, formula or prescription the implementation of “Best Practice” will always require the adaptation of the principles dependent on the circumstances of the task being undertaken and the environment in which it is being undertaken. There is no perfect one size fits all formula for “Best Practice” as each business has different requirements and different environments in which they operate and therefore will require at least some unique practices depending on these factors.

By analysing past performances in our own operations, looking at other similar type of businesses operations, and checking regulatory requirements we can identify the best practices that will give compliance with regulatory requirements to take all steps so far as is reasonably practicable, and then incorporate these into our business plan.