Risk assessments are crucial for operating a safety management system built on consultation with employees and relevant experts. This should be borne in mind over the next few days while the Australian Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, continues to be grilled over what he knew about the risks associated with the government’s insulation scheme and when he knew.
In terms of workplace safety, the Minter Ellison report says little of direct relevance. Page 5 says that installation “may be inadequate” and “safety – house fire/damage”. Elsewhere it mentions project management risks.
Page 20 mentions there is a risk that “product does not meet safety standards”.
Most of the media and political commentary around the Minter Ellison risk assessment report has hindsight with which to flesh out the report. There were issues that required further investigations but whether these are “warnings” is debatable. If these risk areas are warnings then a lot of OHS risk assessment reports are similar warnings but the client is unlikely to interpret it that way.
Coincidentally as writing this article, the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) (finally) entered the debate. It is unclear whether the SIA has actually read the Minter Ellison report as the media release implies the SIA is running from the media reports. It states:
“The risk assessment compiled by law firm Minter Ellison was reported as containing clear “Red Flag” warnings about fire, fraud and poor quality installation, but tragically these were seemingly not given the level of priority they required or at worst were ignored during the planning and implementation phases of this major government-funded project/program.”
Most of the SIA’s points are valid and support the SafetyAtWorkBlog contention that an appropriate level of safety planning was omitted from the scheme’s development. It is disappointing that the input of the safety profession has come so late into the issue when the flaws of the insulation scheme were so blatant that the Government had to suspend its own scheme.
Risk assessment reports are not decisions in themselves, they are part of the decision-making process. There are a lot more considerations included before a decision is made.
The Minter Ellison report is not the smoking gun. In fact it is not even a sherbet bomb. What it does is echo many of the technical and safety concerns issued by experts in the insulation and electrical industries. It is one piece in the government’s jigsaw of project mismanagement.