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Health & Safety - A New Era

I was in Dunedin recently speaking with some of the current student body. It re-enforced to me the changing dynamics of the dental profession in New Zealand.

Dentistry seems to be at odds with the rest of the world where it is expected folk will have multiple jobs and multiple careers in their working life time. Dentistry is a very clearly defined profession. The investment to garner the qualifications (many students are nearing six figure student loans) and the specificity of those qualifications don't necessarily lend themselves to future career changes.

That's not to say graduates haven't captured some of today's trends. Many give consideration to further qualifications and in due course to becoming a specialist. They also have a greater acceptance that they won't work and live in the same community or even the same country all their life.

I think this helps to explain the advent of corporate structured multi-site dental practices and a reluctance to pursue the position of “practice owner”. When I query the reluctance of practice ownership there is the appreciation that their qualification provides them with clinical skills - but they have limited business acumen.

It's the art of "the business of being in business" that eludes them and I think at least they appreciate they don't know what they don't know. It seems every year there is further legislation that every dentist needs to take account of, and in fact, every small business owner needs to address.

This year from 4th April the Health & Safety at Work Act came in to force and is designed to provide a safer working environment for staff and visitors to the work place. It also makes businesses, directors and managerial staff more accountable for their actions and inactions.

Ultimately businesses need to be proactive about managing their processes and exposure. Time and energy needs to be spent on ensuring actual safety in the workplace. As well as the human cost associated with getting it wrong there are severe legal and financial consequences for getting it wrong.

It may also be a useful time to review insurance coverage in place to protect against a transgression of the act. I suspect most dentists will fall in to the following two camps:

  • Are paying for insurance but not aware they have it or what it covers
  • Don't know what the risk is and didn't know you could insure it

While it is not possible to insure against any fine imposed by the courts for breaching the Health & Safety Act it is possible to insure against the legal defence costs to deal with WorkSafe investigations and prosecutions. In addition to fines the court may also enforce reparation orders to top up ACC shortfalls, recovery of medical bills (not covered by ACC) and loss of benefits.

Coverage is available through a combination of Statutory Liability Insurance and Employers Liability Insurance.

Statutory Liability Insurance can provide access to specialists - both from the Health & Safety arena and the legal field. These experts will work to gain the best possible outcome for the business or individual.

These covers can be sourced in a number of ways. Many businesses if they have them will add them to their Commercial Insurance Package - Material Damage, Business Interruption and Public Liability.

NZDA also provide an option as an adjunct to their Professional Indemnity Cover.

NZDIS also make it available as part of our Legal Expenses Defence Policy that covers a range of other legal action that can be brought against the practice. This includes but is not limited to Employee Disputes, Commercial Contracts, Town Planning and Road Traffic Laws, Disputes between Partners or Colleagues and Tax and Account Audit Disputes.

For those of you in business it is just some evidence of the ever more complicated process of being in business.

If you need direction or assistance with your Liability Insurances NZDIS are but a phone call away.

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