The Mahi Haumaru Model is a hermeneutic model that functions with expert input, cognitive objects and real conditions. It was initially based on the simple design and functions of a Fire Triangle that illustrates the three elements that a fire needs to ignite: heat, fuel, and an oxidizing agent. Similarly, Mahi Haumaru functions on a basis of construction, if tupato, ako and manaaki are being used then Māori values or precepts can be evidenced as being used to improve health and safety. Their application is not a thing but an event because it is a result of conscious decision. The Model is not intended to recommend specific health and safety interventions or practices (e.g. how ako is practiced). It only provides the key underlying values or context for Māori practices in workplace health and safety to occur. While ako, tupato, and manaaki are not the only precepts and practices that can be used in health and safety, they are at the fore in terms of harmonizing a Maori worldview and western health and safety conventions.
Ako means to both to teach and to learn moreover it employs several strategies including a reciprocal nature between learner and teacher in which learners are actively engaged and as such learner and teacher roles can be reversed, the seeking and valuing of student feedback and cooperative learning . The concept of tuakana-teina also operates through the dual nature of ako. Ako contrasts with some western thinking that places students alone at the centre of learning and the expert or transmission model of teaching. Such differences are arguably the exception. Facets of ako also parallel with western ideals of worker engagement and participation in health and safety such as workers and employers sharing workplace knowledge and jointly identifying and managing risks. Manaaki means the reciprocity of kindness, respect, humility, responsible hospitality, and caring for others and the environment. Alike ako, manaaki also parallels with western ideals of workplace health and safety including the doctrine of duty of care and in New Zealand legislation as the primary duty of care, overlapping duties and worker participation and engagement. Kia tūpato means to be cautious or being politically astute, culturally safe and reflexive. It may prove to be the most unique aspect of Māori health and safety. Cautious behavior resonates with Māori in the form of objects such as the pürerehua (or purorohu) musical instrument, which is swung around the head to produce whirring roar warning hearers to be alert (kia hiwara) and customs such as powhiri requiring preparedness (kia mataara). While there is a void in the literature concerning Māori workers having or not a contemporary predisposition towards caution versus safety, there is evidence that Māori valued it traditionally. The simple design and function coupled with paralleling of Māori cultural precepts with western health and safety ideals enables the Model to resonate practically and more readily with workers and employers and once familiar to be lifted off the page and used instinctively.