Nitpicking or forensic analysis?

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It is common for regulators, major clients and accreditation bodies to require copies of a detailed health and safety management plan so that they can be assured the contractor is complying with OHS laws and contract safety obligations. Over the years, part of my job has been to assess these plans to determine their quality, validity and applicability. Some have accused me of nitpicking, others have appreciated the pedantry but my perspective is that such plans are a crucial method of establishing and communicating OHS practices and providing a base from which a positive safety culture can be constructed.

I would argue that any company that has a carelessly written OHS management plan is unlikely to fully understand its own OHS commitments.  That company would also be providing conflicting and confusing safety information to its own workforce and its subcontractors.

Inaccuracies and inconsistencies

One example that comes to mind was a large company who submitted an OHS management plan which detailed many safety commitments, what I consider “promises”. However, there were inconsistencies such as the person who was responsible and accountable for safety at the start of the plan, let’s say a “safety manager”, and who was not mentioned any further. Continue reading “Nitpicking or forensic analysis?”

The practical manifestation of safety leadership

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Professor Andrew Hopkins‘ frequent appearances at safety conferences are always fascinating as he does not simply trot out the same presentation each time. He is certainly not a priest with the same 52 sermons each year.

At the Building Safety conference Hopkins spoke briefly about mindfulness but grounded this in how executives and others should inspect a worksite and what questions to ask. He discussed audits also but there will be more on that in another article.

Hopkins insisted that executives should show leadership and begin to satisfy their positive OHS duty and their due diligence obligations by walking their worksites, talking with their workers and, most importantly, listening to the answers. There are no hard and fast rules or guidelines on the frequency of these visits but he said that the executives should NOT be accompanied. Having a phalanx of execs in pristine PPE approaching a work group puts the workers on guard and makes them self-conscious. Continue reading “The practical manifestation of safety leadership”

Supreme Court decision limits public knowledge of OHS offences

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Woman CelebratingIn May 2013 Fiona Austin (@upfrontfi) a lawyer with the Australian law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), tweeted:

“Great win in the Supreme Court! No more naming and shaming for health and safety offenders in Queensland”

The Supreme Court decision is an appalling situation over which OHS professionals and regulators should be outraged.

Austin and other HSF lawyers authored a longer article on the case and totally miss the point of why OHS offenders should be named.  Shaming of offenders is a different matter.

The article explains how a decision under the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld) may stop the OHS regulator in Queensland, Work Health and Safety Queensland, from listing the names of offenders on its website. Continue reading “Supreme Court decision limits public knowledge of OHS offences”

New Zealand railways, red tape, politics and workplace deaths

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cover of NZ RailOn 28 April 2013, New Zealand lawyer, Hazel Armstrong, published a 48-page book on how workplace fatalities and the management of the NZ rail industry has been related to politics and economics.

This is an ideological position more than anything else and the evidence is thin in much of this short book but there is considerable power in the description of the manipulation of occupational health and safety regulations and oversight during the political privatisation of the NZ rail sector.  Many countries have privatised previously nationalised, or government-owned, enterprises usually on the argument of productivity and efficiency increases.  Armstrong argues that these arguments were used to justify breaking the trade union dominance of the rail industry. Continue reading “New Zealand railways, red tape, politics and workplace deaths”

National Workers Memorial opens

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Yesterday Australia opened its National Workers Memorial in Canberra.  The Workplace Relations Minister  Bill Shorten, spoke at the ceremony with, largely, an edited and reduced version of the speech he presented in Brisbane earlier last week.  The Canberra speech dropped  all the ANZAC Day references and spoke about the importance of remembering.

“By erecting this monument, we tie the lives and memories and families of thousands of Australians to this place.  We stand here in this place as a mark of respect from a civilised community as an expression of failure and regret.  That’s what all memorials are, and this one is no different.  This is a symbol of the mourning for those lost too early from our tribe Australia.” Continue reading “National Workers Memorial opens”