Information flow is critical for sound Board decisions on OHS

Peter Arthur, a Partner with Australian law firm, Allens Arthur Robinson, spoke on Boardroom Radio on 1 April 2010 about new duties that national OHS laws will place on Directors.

Although there are six elements in the new general duty, Arthur says that they all can come under the category of “information flow”.  The Board needs to be better informed on OHS matters than ever before but must be able to access OHS data when necessary.  This also requires that the Board be better educated on OHS principles and obligations so that they can be “fully informed”.

Arthur also says that under the due diligence obligations each company’s safety management system must be functional and adequately resourced.  Given the recent trend for bringing risk management and legal advice back in-house in Australia, there may be opportunities for decent working conditions for OHS professionals.

Curiously, Arthur repeatedly uses the term “adequate” for the safety management system, resourcing and communication to the Boards.  This is refreshing when one has repeated heard or “marketing commitments” of Zero Harm or Best Practice.  In the real world businesses balance OHS with other corporate obligations and often come to the goal of compliance rather than the more promotional, but false, commitment of Best Practice.

Most businesses would love to have the luxury of time and resources to have a first class safe workplace but the reality is Compliance, or, if lucky or the company has an energetic health and safety representative, “compliance plus”.  Companies may aim for the sky but they wear fall protection.

Audio of the interview is available HERE.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

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