Kevin McKAfee, Healthsafe.

Upgrade Site Management Now

♦ Upgrade site management now, says Kevin McAfee, managing director of HealthSafe NZ, who argues the shift away from COVID lockdown makes visitor management more important than ever.

“As more NZ workplaces open their doors as the country moves to the Orange traffic light setting, and we see the shift to working more collaboratively again, businesses need to put their focus on their health and safety processes,” McAfee says.

“With more freedom, and more visitors to workplaces and sites, comes increased risk. That’s why it’s crucial that both the private and public sector carry out risk management assessments to make sure they are well-equipped for an increase in visitors and how they would fare in an emergency. To do this they must ask themselves whether they have the systems in place to protect their people, mitigate risk, and meet health and safety obligations.”

McAfee says he had seen first-hand how falling short of health and safety due diligence can negatively impact businesses, and cause stress and confusion at a time of crisis.

“11 years ago, I was working for a large retail company in Christchurch when the February 2011 earthquake hit,” he says. “The company didn’t have technology systems in place to effectively identify who was on-site at the time of the quake. It turned out they weren’t alone – many businesses affected by the earthquake struggled to identify staff, visitors and contractors on site as they didn’t keep real-time data and records. As a result, they faced specific challenges around contractor governance and health and safety.

“Thankfully, New Zealand businesses and public entities have come a long way with their health and safety practices in the past decade, but more still needs to be done. Some may put this in the too-hard basket, but there is a growing desire to integrate visitor, employee, contractor check-ins with HR data to automate the attendance-taking process – in hospitals and schools where contact tracing and on-site visitor management is crucial, integrated visitor management systems are being rolled out.”

According to McAfee, organisations in the US, UK and Australia are now using software solutions which solve gaps in visitor management, people onboarding and help them meet their health and safety obligations.

“Universities, schools, hospitals, banks, construction, transport, and large corporations have been increasingly adopting digital solutions to enhance safety and compliance within business operations,” he says.

“Bluetooth beacons are being used by institutions, such as banks, to give real-time visibility into the occupancy of office space so employees can see what spaces are available to choose from, facilitate collaboration between co-workers, partners and guests. The technology is also being used in offices and on-site to ensure safety through mustering those on site in times of emergency.

“In education facilities, Bluetooth technology tracks visitors and sets user-defined areas and access. Alerts and notifications are activated if students enter areas they are not supposed to access. These are straight-forward processes which protect people’s livelihoods and the organisation’s operations, assets and reputation.

“A large number of businesses in overseas markets are going contactless, reducing the number of physical touchpoints and maximising new technologies. There is a transition away from swipe and ID cards and a move towards Bluetooth technology and apps for sign-ins.”

According to McAfee, while many Kiwi businesses are already using smartphones, QR readers and Bluetooth technology to manage their health & safety requirements and comply with health & safety legislation, they still have a long way to go to keep up with international trends.

“If the past 2 years have taught us anything, it’s that technology has a large role to play in keeping people safe – just look to the Government’s contact tracing app technology as an example,” he says.

“While many Kiwi businesses have been functioning in fight or flight mode for the past 24 months, we’ve moved into a new stage where the goal shouldn’t just be to stay afloat in a crisis, but to improve and enhance operations to ensure due diligence and best practice to protect people, while safeguarding the company through effective risk management.

“Now is the time to act. Organisations must mitigate risk and ensure they are using efficient solutions for site access, inductions, permits and emergency features as they open up to more people and business. It’s about embracing the small measures that can have a big impact to ensure longevity.”

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