In relation to the new harmonised laws in Australia Amy Towers recently stated in a media release that
“Many employers still haven’t got it quite right. While most have an understanding of their new health and safety responsibilities, we’re finding the practices they do have in place don’t sufficiently meet the new compliance requirements – particularly for managing temporary or contracting staff…”
This is no great surprise. While reviewing the compliance with incoming legislation, many law firms have similarly found that clients were not compliant with existing OHS laws.
- Lack of evidence regarding plans to consult, coordinate and communicate with multiple parties
- Failing to meet new due diligence requirements as an ‘Officer’
- Flawed inductions”
Not sure about that but the principal purpose of her media release is revealed in her justification of the third risk:
“Ms Towers said while both agency and host employers are regularly performing employee inductions, many are still relying on outdated, manual, paper-based inductions, exposing themselves to risk of non-compliance if the induction content is not provided consistently….”
“Using computerised or online inductions not only ensures employees are protected, it provides employers with a greater sense of security. For instance, systems such as WorkPro include competency assessments to demonstrate that the individual understands and remembers the important information……….” (link added)
A major failing in safety training and management is this belief that modern technology is more effective than old technology. Technology may change the method of communication but not what is said. There are many instances where “outdated, manual, paper-based inductions” work. Inductions are an essential element of establishing the site safety rules or having a benchmark of safety knowledge from which management, safety and risk decisions can be made.
Inductions are also an element of the safety management system to which workers can be beholden. Part of the induction, usually, is a commitment by the worker that they have understood the information and they pledge to comply with the site rules, it is a condition of work.
Establishing this “state of knowledge” is of particular importance if a workplace incident occurs. Any investigation would want to find out who knew what and when they knew it. The starting point would be the induction.
Would a computerised induction system provide this level of detail? Such a system has an inbuilt unreliability, the computer and the network from which it operates. (Similar reliability issues were discussed in an article earlier this year) Site safety inspections often identify hazards or poor work practices that are contrary to the induction information but cannot be verified for many reasons, such as
- The network is down
- The computer is broken
- The induction data has not be entered yet
- The battery is flat
- There is no wi-fi network coverage in this location.
An “outdated, manual, paper-based inductions” system avoids all of these problems. A worker’s induction can be immediately verified, there is a signature on the induction form, there are likley to be certificate numbers recorded for the mandatory qualifications. A well-managed “outdated, manual, paper-based inductions” system is likely to trump a computerised system for effective safety enforcement and supervision.
There is also another problem with the media release. Amy Towers is described as “an employment lawyer” but, a few lines later, is a “Work Safety Managing Consultant at employment law firm FCB“. Her only qualification according to her LinkedIn profile is “Bachelor of Applied Science (OHS)” and there is no mention of a law qualification in her online profile at Stratecom. This is likely to be an error by the public relations company that produced the media release but these sort of anomalies detract from the tone of authority such releases seek to project.