An Olympic first really worth celebrating.

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Just over a coupla years ago I waved optimistically in the Twitterverse with “14 Athens, 6 Beijing, 43 New Delhi. How about the London Olympics uses the slogan: “No one had to die to make this happen Games”?

Well, they done it! No work oriented fatalities recorded and a record-breaking drop in injury rates. (I did see that there was a death of a crane driver on one of the sites, but it seems it was subsequently revealed the chap died of a heart attack.)

A fantastic achievement, and the British Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is justifiably proud of their role; and bravo to them.

Better still, you can find a whole bunch of research and analytical papers based on the things learned from the very deliberate and measured work safety approaches used.

I’ve only had time to have a quick squizz through the host of papers available. But it does seem that the use of a systematic approach to managing contractors, support for supervisors, a major engagement of workers to improve safety outcomes – all those things contributed to an excellent safety result. In other words, they implemented the work safety principles that have been bandied about for years, and it worked beautifully.

Here be a bunch of handy links on the outcomes and findings, there’s lots to use in this stuff:

Lessons for industry from the HSE site:

A news release from the British Institute of Occupational Safety and Health; a handy summary of outcomes with other links:

Col Finnie

The “head scratcher” in due diligence

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I’ve been having a “hmmm(?!)” moments with a wee bit of the due diligence stuff in clause 27 of the Work Health Safety Bill (WHS). I’m interested to hear what you people reckon about it.

Here’s the rub: I don’t think it’s possible to get a clear idea of what it means to comply with the due diligence obligation as set out in clause 27(5)(a); in turn, this means the obligation is, for all practical purposes, unenforceable.

Below is a slab of the preliminary words and the provision, with a bit after it for context:

“(5) In this section, due diligence includes taking reasonable step

 (a)  to acquire and keep up-to-date knowledge of work health and safety matters; and

 (b) to gain an understanding of the nature of the operations of the business or undertaking…”. [emphasis added]

In the process of going through the WHS stuff to see what changes I need to look at for a client’s SMS (well in advance of the Victorian move over to the national laws) I decided to look at the due diligence stuff first.

A quick read of sub-clause (5) shows there is a whole bunch of stuff on the sort of things you’d expect a “mindful” organisation to be doing to keep senior managers up-to-speed.  There isn’t an issue with paragraphs (b) through to (e); they deal with good mindfulness stuff for their business and undertaking. It’s para (a) that has quizzical compliance issues.

It’s pretty obvious that a safety management system ain’t gunna work properly if senior managers don’t have “an understanding of the nature of the operations”, don’t have the resources and processes to manage safety, etc.  Continue reading “The “head scratcher” in due diligence”

Work Health and Safety Regulation Impact Statement could do better

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[Originally submitted as a comment to a “safety costs” article]

I’ve spent a coupla hours dipping into what looked to me like the important bits of the WHS reg RIS, and I gotta say it don’t add up. I’d also say that the RIS does, in general terms, do what it should do, in terms of making the reasoning processes it uses relatively clear. The merit of the conclusions is up for debate of course, but at least the RIS seems to have made a fair fist of explaining how the conclusions were reached.

For mine there are 2 key flaws.

1. The options to the proposed reg (chapter 4 pg. 19) are just not sufficient. I don’t think it’s at all reasonable to provide 2 “options” which are: do nothing or make the regs. Roger, it might be reasonable to conclude that a big public consultation exercise has happened with the WHS Act, so why revisit a lot of other options? But the fact is the COAG RIS guidelines say a “range of options” should be included, and it’s common practice in RISs to at least have a few genuine alternatives to consider. (See link to the guidelines: ).

The agreement (as it is) by jurisdictions to put the WHS Act into operation doesn’t come with an all-or-nothing conclusion that the WHS regulations is the only option. We have to acknowledge that when it comes to Regulations, we are getting down to tin-tacks when it comes to statutory obligations; it’s that thing about Regulations “giving practical effect to an Act.” That means a big effort is needed to get it right as far as options go. Continue reading “Work Health and Safety Regulation Impact Statement could do better”

Individual accountability – the Great Leap Backward (and into a legislative maze)

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Col Finnie, formerly WorkSafe Victoria’s Principal Legislation Officer, looks at what the notion of individual accountability might look like if it was incorporated in the Work Health and Safety Bill, all done with his tongue firmly jammed in his cheek

It’s a good thing new perspectives about getting Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) right are tossed around.  We love that sort of thing in OHS-World.  But this sort of stuff, that used to be called “blue sky thinking”, needs the next step: head out of the clouds, feet on the ground and working out whether that ostensibly good idea will actually work, how it will work, and what will be the consequences.  That reality-check can have that ostensibly interesting notion turn into no more than a puff of an idea; I think individual accountability is like that.

It seems that individual accountability is being touted as a contemporary “issue” for OHS.  The context of the tout would appear to be that OHS will be better if everyone takes more direct responsibility for OHS in the workplace, i.e. everyone was more accountable for “how things are done” around a workplace.  And yep, accountability and responsibility are different things, but not by much; clearly ya can’t be held accountable for stuff in the absence of any responsibility for that stuff at all. Continue reading “Individual accountability – the Great Leap Backward (and into a legislative maze)”

Regulating The Great Leap Forward (Into The Bleeding Obvious)

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Col Finnie has provided the following article in response to OHS compliance checklists:

It’s gotta be time to bite-the-bullet.  The wish-fulfilment approach – that people will apply some sort of system to how they look after safety because that’s the only sensible way to do it – well, that’s not working, particularly it seems, in the small business area.

Time to regulate for the obligation to have something that can, at very least, lay the foundation for a comprehensive systematic approach.  Seems just a bit whacked to me that a demonstrable systematic approach is required once a worker is injured (with the return-to-work obligations) and yet there is nuthin’ for the prevention stuff.

Getting a slapping from a magistrate for having no safe work procedures (as one part of a systematic approach) would work as an incentive if people were busted as often as they are for road traffic naughtiness; but we know that frequency of OHS busts are just not going to happen.

The Great Leap Forward (Into The Bleeding Obvious) would have to be regulated in a smart way.   Continue reading “Regulating The Great Leap Forward (Into The Bleeding Obvious)”