An Olympic first really worth celebrating.

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

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

[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)

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)

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)”

The How, How likely and How much of workplace safety

I return to the observation Ken made in his article, the obs about the most successful safety places where

“…safety is driven at the shop floor level and led by a committed team of senior executives who can be relied upon to show it by their actions and not just words.”

Of course, at first blush this is about ownership, commitment etc.  But I get the impression that it’s something even more fundamental and that’s about pragmatism.

I’m not sure OHS-World is so good at How, How likely and How much: the things that I’d suggest cut-to-the-chase on defining pragmatism.

In contrast, we seem to get all caught up in What and Why as if that is enough to motivate good safety performance.  What manifests itself as interminable reports of all the horrible safety failures and the injuries that accompany them.  For mine, the only What in this context is a What that matters to the punter.  Did something go wrong in a way and situation that is completely relevant to the punter, so it can be used to look for similar potential at the punter’s place?  The Why I’m referring to is why a punter should fix stuff, specifically in the context of fixing stuff ’cause it’s the right thing to do or ’cause ya can get busted.  Continue reading “The How, How likely and How much of workplace safety”

Rolling the sleeves up – a good OHS technique.

My father has a smallish block up in the bush, north-east Victoria in the Ovens Valley.  He can’t live there safely anymore, but since he built the place himself and with all the family history it has, it’s a place that has to be retained, and protected from bushfire as much as we reasonably can manage.

My partner and I, plus Dah (and a coupla friends) spent a few weeks there around Christmas and New Year doing lots of scrub clearing, garden things and general tidying up in readiness for the predicted return to hot dry summers after that naughty La Nina begins to fade.   These sort of work trips have been going on over quite a few summers.

The big range of jobs on these tidying-up trips range from trimming large branches, working up on roofs, scrub clearing, lots of load shifting, burn-offs, using lots of different powered equipment (chainsaw, scrub-cutters) and dragging out cut scrub with the ute etc etc.

Doing this work has me often giving lots of thought to doing the job efficiently and safely, and observing my own safety stuff-ups.  It gives me a chance to reflect on the safety system stuff we spend lots of time lecturing punters on and how practical it all is when there is limited time to get the job done, it’s 30 degrees Celsius, and the humidity is at a zillion; in other words, in work conditions lots of people have to deal with all the time. Continue reading “Rolling the sleeves up – a good OHS technique.”