An article in the InDaily online newspaper for 4 April 2011 provides several safety management issues that are worth pondering. (Thanks to the readers who brought the article to my attention)
Keith Brown was the CEO of South Australia’s Workcover Corporation earlier this century. He has told InDaily that he lost his position due to a change in the politics of the state and has not been welcome since. (A more personal perspective on Brown was provided by Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson in a January 2011 blog comment.)
Brown says that the most effective way of reducing the unfunded liabilities of workers compensation is to communicate with all stakeholders in the injury management process. He believes that
“WorkCover now operates more to service the needs of the bureaucracy compared to the operation he ran for six years in favour of the clients.”
This perspective has been supported by a number of past comments received by the SafetyAtWorkBlog.
Openness, inclusion and transparency are business values that are being ignored by many companies and the figures quoted in the inDaily article illustrate Brown’s position.
Brown also voices a warning for those who believe that the regulation of injury prevention and rehabilitation should be managed by separate government agencies.
“Were he running the review, Brown says he’d be asking hard questions about the WorkCover culture, which he says changed once Labor removed from the corporation its responsibility for injury prevention.
He says the front-end prevention of injuries was a lever he had used to control both the human cost and the financial cost.
“That lever was removed and put into the bureaucracy. That, I think, is an equation that was negative for the culture of the organisation. You need to look at that link.”
It is rare to see such an inside perspective from a former CEO and one which, to some extent, balances those who call for the splitting up of various OHS regulators for the sake of economic efficiency and bottom-line returns. It may be that, like public transport, workers’ compensation is to be one of those government services that will never be profitable but is always needed.
Brown’s comments auger rough times ahead for the national harmonisation of workers compensation that the federal (Labor) government has proposed (and for which initial stakeholder meetings have been held).
Browon said that establishing cultural change in workers compensation is like using carrots and sticks:
“Though both are available, we focused very, very heavily on the carrot. Because if you’ve got enlightenment rather than compliance, then you are more likely to be successful.”
A 2001 article by law firm fountain+bonig seems to support the Broan approach and had this to say about Keith Brown’s keynote address at a conference:
“Keith Brown’s presentation underscored a fundamental theme that existed throughout the conference, namely the financial and social benefits that can be achieved as a result of a genuine commitment to workplace safety. Many companies will be aware of the significant savings that can be achieved through recognising the importance of safe work practices and promoting a safety culture at all levels of the organisation.”
It seems that Brown’s approach has lost political support, certainly in South Australia, but that it should be a voice at the table in the future plans for harmonisation.