One of the most significant motivators for changes in safety leadership in the executive circles in Australia has been the obligation to apply due diligence to occupational health and safety (OHS) matters. The obligation has existed for several years now but is still dominated by legal interpretations rather than managerial ones. To support the legal obligations, OHS professionals should look at how they can add value to due diligence. One way of achieving, and exceeding, compliance of due diligence would be to subject OHS systems and strategies to a peer-review rather than a narrow audit process. Continue reading “Beyond auditing for due diligence”
Macquarie University researcher Sharron O’Neill is traveling around Australia refining, through consultation and seminars, her research into Work Health and Safety (WHS) Due Diligence. In a Melbourne seminar this week O’Neill, and her colleague, Karen Wolfe, provided thought-provoking discussions on three principal areas:
- Due Diligence,
- Performance Indicators, and
Below are some of my thoughts that they provoked.
WHS Due Diligence
WHS Due Diligence is still a poorly understood concept. Part of the reason is that the major explainers of due diligence seem to be, predominantly, labour lawyers who, not surprisingly, emphasis the legal requirements and origins rather than the safety elements and application. There are few safety professionals who are explaining due diligence; rather they are discussing OHS/WHS in the context of due diligence.
One colleague explained how an established organisation employed her as their first dedicated OHS professional around the same time as due diligence was being discussed as part of the national OHS harmonisation process. By looking through the company’s existing system of work,
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”