08:37 pm, Wednesday 26 October, 2011
All in all, today was a much better collection of speakers, presentations and workshops.
What are we to make of our workplace health and safety programs?
The first keynote speaker, Professor Andrew Hopkins, of the Australian National University asked “What Are We to Make of Safe Behaviour Programs”? He talked at length about the fallacy of mono-causal accidents – and how in fact, all accidents, large and small, have many layers of precipitating factors, causes and mistakes. In his opinion this fallacy must be addressed. Prof. Hopkins said that for safety behaviour programs to be more effective they have to be aimed at management in the first instance; and that it is essential to have an environment of trust when behavioural safety observations are being made to ensure workers don’t feel that they are being targeted for blame.
What has been your experience of such safety observations in your workplace?
Australian Defence Force WHS
The second keynote speaker was LtCol Sean Faulkner of the Australian Defence Force, (Army). He presented the process used by the ADF in the preparation for Harmonisation. I found his description of Army Safety Day very exciting.
Army Safety Day
To demonstrate their commitment to systemic safety, today is Army Safety Day. This is the second time they have conducted this event. Everyone down’s tools and considers safety in their workplace. There is a video address by the Chief of Army; a 100% inventory hazard inspection; and other events throughout the day. I can’t think of any other organisation that dedicates a whole day to safety awareness.
THE TRAGEDY OF THE SNOWY MOUNTAINS HYDRO-ELECTRIC SCHEME
The middle section of the day started off with a thought provoking presentation by Fergus Robinson, OHS Training Programs Coordinator, Master Builders Association of Vic. He has thoroughly researched the safety events during the construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. It was frightening to hear that 121 people died during a 22 year period on this project. For every death, it is estimated that there was 10 permanently disabling injuries. The coroners of the time were not champions of safety either. During this entire project they never once found any employer negligent. It is incorrect to consider the ‘50’s and ‘60’s as the ‘bad old days’. Safety was on the agenda however, the processes were not implemented. Many of the poor decisions made were based on economic factors. Fergus finished by saying that safety was about morality and ethics. He asked, “When the big decisions have to be made, do the people in charge really care about the safety and welfare of the workforce”? This period of time is forms a dark shadow onAustralia’s safety history and must never, ever be repeated.
THE LEGAL OPINION
While many would consider presentations by lawyers to be a bit dry, the next two speakers were very easy to listen to. Paul Cutrone, Partner, Sparke Helmore, gave some worrying examples of what has been said by real, live people in real, live court cases! It was particularly scary to hear what people are willing to say in order to seek a finding of ‘not guilty’. The message was, know your safety systems, know your processes, and be able to defend your actions with a clean conscience.
Michael Selinger, Partner, Holding Redlich Lawyers, got down to the nitty gritty with what needed to be considered in the event of a serious incident. He talked about the Inspector’s Powers; Union powers; and those of HSR’s as well.
Michael gave a guideline on what to expect if WorkCover investigated an incident:
- A WorkCover interview would be conducted at Workcover premises or at your premises.
- It will be tape recorded (with your consent) or typed up and signed as a record of interview.
- You have no right to silence but you can object to answers.
- You can have a legal representative or supporting person during the interview but they cannot answer questions.
Michael also described several areas for an organisation to give consideration during an investigation:
- Where are your records?
- How are you looking after other staff?
- Who is dealing with the Inspector?
- Is legal representation necessary?
- Are the media involved? Reputation concerns.
- Improving safety systems after incident
- How are you looking after the injured person/family?
MORE ON THE LEGISLATION
The afternoon was rounded off as yesterday with a series of short workshops providing some insight into various areas of the legislation.
- Andrew Theakstone - New Codes of Practice.
- Lydia Grepyl – Consultation and the HSR
- Michael Costello – Multiple PCBUs and the Workplace
A panel of current safety leaders described their experiences of building and nurturing cultures of safety in their corporate roles. This panel was made up of:
- Lawrence O’Dwyer, Head of Safety, Health & Environment, AGL
- Elizabeth Tosti – Group Manager Safety, Leighton Holdings
- David Tregoweth – Director, Group Risk & Zero Harm, Brambles
Much of what they had to say echoed what we have been hearing for the past two days.
- Management must demonstrate their commitment to safety;
- Make management aware of the cost of poor safety performance;
- Safety culture has to have a top-down as well as a bottom-up approach; and
- Communication is imperative.
ORGANISATIONS WITH VOLUNTEERS
A worrying issue that was raised today was that of the recognition of volunteers as workers under the new legislation. This seems to be particularly problematic for organisations that rely heavily on volunteer labour such as schools, rural fire brigades, and the SES to give some examples. Volunteers have all the same rights to consultation and representation. One organisation said the worst case scenario for them could produce a training cost of about $195,000. While WorkCover acknowledged that they have had complaints about this issue, there is no easy solution at this point in time.
A couple of celebrities have been spotted around the Safety Show over the last couple of days.
Dennis Lillee, Jeff Thompson, and Angry Anderson are all regulars around the Blue Steel site.
Is that Marilyn Monroe I spotted?
The final day is tomorrow – so check back for the final daily wrap up.
Angela Young - Do you have an OHS News Story -
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