Safety Institute expulsion raises questions about fairness
Posted on July 8, 2011
John Lambert has been expelled from the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA). This is a fact that the SafetyAtWorkBlog would not usually report on due to privacy concerns but Lambert has already brought his expulsion to the attention of his occupational health and safety colleagues through various online discussion forums and has agreed to answer the questions below.
A quick background to his expulsion is that there was considerable debate in some sections of the Safety Institute of Australia about disciplinary action being taken against a Victorian Committee Member, Phillip Kamay. Many members, including John Lambert, saw an injustice and expressed opinions and advice, often, in email and on SIA discussion forums. It appears that Lambert overstepped the boundaries of criticism in some correspondence and complaints were lodged with the SIA
The National President of the Safety Institute of Australia, Sue Pilkington, has repeatedly promised answers to five questions about John Lambert’s expulsion for almost two weeks. No answers have yet been received but will be incorporated into this blog posts, if, and when, received.
Lambert answered some questions from us pertaining to his expulsion. Below is a slightly edited version of his response:
Why did you join the Safety Institute?
I joined the SIA primarily because I was impressed by the SIA Safety Conferences and Safety exhibition held in Melbourne, and by the calibre of people who were presenters and who manned the SIA booth.
Did you ever consider running for a committee position from which you could affect change in the organisation?
Up until August last year I felt the SIA was running well. As I was / have been Chairman of the Geelong OSH group (GOSH) (I had the sad duty of winding that group due to a lack of interest within Geelong). Vice Chairman of the Geelong Group of the IEAust, and Vice chairman of the Forensic Engineering Society of Australia I was not looking for another Committee position. I did however act as a volunteer on the SIA stand at the Melbourne Exhibition and at the Avalon Air show, and provided whatever other input and assistance I could.
You seemed to question the validity of the SIA’s rules and procedures yet you continued to participate in that “flawed” process. Why persist?
I was brought up by my parents to be ethical (regardless of the cost), to be committed to improving society, and to be committed to as far as possible to fighting to correct injustices. When I became involved in the Phillip Kamay matter, I was there for the long run – that is for as long as it took to achieve what I had given a commitment to achieve. My initial commitment in August 2010 was to WA members – being to track down information on the Phillip Kamay matter so they could make an informed decision.
Very quickly I became aware that the SIA National Constitution, SIA National Administration, SIA Procedures and SIA policies were not being followed/ observed. That led to a commitment to those members wanting the process to be compliant, and those members wanting the principles of natural justice to be observed, to endeavour to ensure that outcome. That commitment was made by 8 September 2010 after I had been sent a copy of Phillip Kamay’s defence.
My commitment became stronger and stronger as I became aware of more background material, and observed behaviour of the National Executive and CEO that I found unacceptable. … The fact they had totally ignored SIA procedures made me very angry.
At the start I asked to be informed as to the parts of the SIA National Constitution and/or SIA National Administration and/or SIA Procedures and/or SIA policies that were to be followed in [various disciplinary] process[es]. I did this because of the fact that NBOM [National Board of Management] seemed to ignore these matters. SIA NBOM never advised me of the basis for the formal complaint process. And while they refused to give me that advice I refused to take part in defending myself. And that has led to the current situation where I am still wrestling with the decision about forcing another Special General Meeting.
Why do you think the SIA seems to generate such passion in its committee members, in particular?
This is an interesting question which I will answer based on the assumption that you are referring to the passion for committee members to NOT follow the SIA National Constitution and/or SIA National Administration and/or SIA Procedures and/or SIA policies.
During the period from August last year I have sadly become aware that a number of the long term members at the most senior levels are in fact bullies who have the sort of approach to getting their way that you would expect from bullies.
I have also become aware that a number of members at the senior level who have vested interests driving their behaviour.
And finally there are a number of members who exhibit the “all’s fair in love and war” approach to running the SIA – and they react strongly to anyone (including Phillip Kamay) trying to make them follow procedures. Hence the situation is complex and sad.
If you had been asked to tender an apology, in your own words, would you have done so?
If I had been advised of the basis for the formal complaint process, and been able to confirm that that basis was being followed, I would have participated fully in the process. However there is no doubt the rules of natural justice would not have been observed (sadly).
Is it reasonable to expect those safety professionals who become committee members to be exemplars of professionalism?
The SIA sets very high standards for itself as can be found on its website.
Given this IT IS REASONABLE to expect those safety professionals who become committee members to be exemplars of professionalism
Can a safety professional function without being a member of any professional association?
Note: Kevin Jones is a Fellow of the SIA