David Clarke’s response

This is the response from David Clarke, CEO of the Safety Institute of Australia to questions about an Enforceable Undertaking by Ardex Australia discussed in the SafetyAtWorkBlog article “SIA receives $50K through Enforceable Undertaking”

SafetyAtWorkBlog: Was there a meeting held between SIA and Ardex prior to the submission of the EU in order to determine how the community’s awareness of OHS could be improved? If so, who attended?

David Clarke: We were contacted by the Ardex representative last year and had a long series of subsequent discussions and e-mail interactions over the following days and weeks, covering the desire of the company through its EU to donate to something which would have some lasting industry and wider community workplace health and safety benefit. We brought the OHSBoK to their attention, we explained its very significant link with what is being taught in OHS higher education in Australia, which flows on into the knowledge that health and safety people bring to their roles, we discussed the relationship between the incident and any failures which occurred, and how these may relate to the OHSBoK. Both I and the SIA’s Body of Knowledge manager were involved in these discussions.

SAWB: How was the new OHSBoK chapter “Rules, procedures and documentation” arrived at as the most appropriate community awareness action?

DC:As you know we are not a party to the EU process so I cannot answer that. From our end we proposed that under the unique circumstance of the issue/incident as discussed in our series of interactions, there were potentially two or three areas of the OHSBoK that the donation could meaningfully apply to, including the one eventually chosen which has very meaningful links. The chapter under consideration is complex in a number of ways, as we outlined in the project brief we provided the company.

SAWB: How was the sum of $50,000 arrived at as the new cost of the chapter’s production?

DC: The parties to an EU determine the amount of funds, so I cannot answer that. However, as the process developed it did include detailed enquiries from the parties about costs as they might apply to the development and/or review of OHSBoK chapters, and we outlined these in a detailed project brief. This would be part of the high quality due diligence undertaken by the EU parties and the interactive process which ensures funds are properly donated for purpose.

SAWB: Will this cover the new chapter’s total cost or will the SIA need to supplement the payment?

DC: Based on our extensive knowledge of chapter development and the final work to be done on the development process, it is highly likely to require a supplementary input of funds from the SIA. We do this sort of thing as part of our own ongoing commitment to the OHSBoK

SAWB: Does the SIA have a draft timeline for the production of the new chapter and what formal process will be used to obtain a suitably qualified expert in this area to write the Chapter?

DC: Yes we do have a draft timeline, although given that the project is yet to begin we will first start with the similar process as we have conducted with the previous 39 chapters of sourcing suitably qualified expertise, which includes identifying – not just in Australia but also internationally – the work which has been done on the same or similar bodies of work and subject matter, and the people involved. This obviously affects the timeline significantly. The priority is that the work is done properly.

SAWB: The EU says that any innovations that Ardex identifies through its review processes will be shared with the SIA’s CEO. Given that this commitment occurs in the Community Awareness section of the EU, what do you plan to do with these innovations and reports?

DC: As I understand it, the company will implement the innovations suggested by its review process, and will share them with the SIA in case they are of use in the work particular on the BoK chapter, but not exclusive to that. If there is a wider learning to share, we will do so. Who we share it with and how will obviously strongly depend on the nature of the learnings, and I cannot predict those. However, we have many options. Our networks and partnerships are always expanding, and we increasingly use partner organisations to extend messages into key areas of the community.

I would add that of all the things that are important to the development of this profession, new knowledge and learnings from workplace evaluation, review and research are amongst the most critical. Too much debate in this field is focused on throwing around one opinion or another about one or another school of thought in health and safety. More evidence is critically important. As a result, the decision to openly share the outcomes of the auditors review of the company is a particularly welcome part of the EU which I commend the company for. If there are learnings there of value, you can be confident we will do what we can to incorporate those in the OHSBoK work and/or share them more widely.

SAWB: Are you aware of any other EUs in Victoria or elsewhere with a similar commitment to the Safety Institute of Australia?

DC: I am uncertain of the meaning of this question as this is a donation for work on a ‘rules, procedures and documentation’ chapter of the OHSBoK, and does not represent any particular commitment to the Safety Institute of Australia. But, depending on what you mean:

  • We have no other investment or offers of support for that chapter so will need to top up all other costs ourselves;
  • If your question is whether other OHSBoK donations have been received, the answer is yes. Over the past two years we have had a small number of donations which have been directly invested in particular chapter development and/or review, in areas which relate to the circumstances of the EU, and they have been extremely helpful to the development of the OHSBoK, and through this, the ongoing evolution of education standards for OHS professionals.

SAWB: Has the SIA had any discussions with WorkSafe Victoria or other safety regulators about financial donations to the SIA for OHSBok chapters or upgrades, or for any other SIA purposes?

DC: Certainly. In regard to the OHSBoK, I have personally raised the issue of my belief in its suitability to areas of EU donations – especially the building of industry knowledge of health and safety and the longer term preventative impact that it has. The link between the quality and content of training and education, work practice, and their combined outcomes and impacts is unambiguous. We don’t have a say in EU’s but we let those who do know about the OHSBoK. We have only focused on OHSBoK in these discussions because of its particular importance and unique nature.

As part of my job I also personally raise the potential of investments in the OHSBoK with a wide range of other people and groups, letting them know about the opportunities that the development of the OHS Body of Knowledge can bring. We see it as a great way of generating long term benefit especially when there is a relationship between the incident and a relevant area of the OHSBoK (as there was in this case.) EU’s are at least in part about companies making a commitment to improving health and safety not just within their own company but more widely. We believe the OHSBoK is a great destination for such investments and fits the criteria very well.

I reiterate that because of the nature and conditions placed on donations, they in fact generate costs to the Institute because we usually have to additionally invest funds to make such an investment work successfully. But we still value them very highly because they make a powerful contribution to changing the content of what is considered good practice in health and safety, and are linked to what is subsequently taught in higher education. Through this work, both we and the agency donating are building better national knowledge of health and safety throughout Australian workplaces for the benefit of all of the Australian community. We think it’s great if others invest in it as well and openly invite them to do so. I am extremely pleased in this case that the EU parties made that choice, which was a good one.

I would like to clarify that the OHSBoK is not a service, nor does the SIA own it in the traditional sense. The SIA does not profit from the OHSBoK. We have stewardship responsibilities for it and this includes maintaining and developing it as new knowledge emerges and processes and systems are improved. Our commitment is to provide it open source and free of charge to the community. As a result, the challenge remains, how is it developed and maintained?

In my view your questions suggest that you may be looking at this within a narrow concept and perception of what community benefit represents. In my experience, there is a widespread view and strong confidence that the community at large gains a significant benefit when the country’s OHS body of knowledge, which underpins key elements of the way people are educated in OHS, is improved and developed.