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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Stepping up to safety

Stepping up to safety
Article Type:
Publication Date:
New Zealand

A new two-year strategic plan for the Business Leaders' Health and Safety Forum challenges members to bring about a nationwide step-change in OHS performance.

The document, recently signed off by the 98 CEOs who belong to the forum, describes New Zealand's current health and safety record as "embarrassingly poor", and calls for members to use their influence to provide visible safety leadership within their own companies and supply chains.

The strategy pulls no punches, stating: "However you look at it, New Zealand is not a safe place to work", and goes on to refer to rates of death and serious harm that are among the highest in the developed world. It attributes the problem to a variety of factors, including the impact of high-risk industries such as agriculture and forestry, a "relatively immature" regulatory environment, and a comparatively large number of businesses that do not invest in safety.

At the same time, it points out, some organisations have achieved dramatic improvements in OHS performance by demonstrating strong safety leadership and making health and safety an integral part of everything that happens. By working together, it says, forum members - most of whom are from large corporations or high-risk industry sectors - have sufficient influence to bring about positive culture change, not only in their own organisations but also in those they deal with.

Forum executive director Julian Hughes says the strategy's goal is zero harm and it has identified three core areas of activity to help members achieve this.

"The first is developing world-class safety leadership, the second providing opportunities to freely share skills, experience and resources, and the third working, individually and collectively, to influence key stakeholders, such as government, industry groups, and supply chains," he says.

Underpinning these objectives are two support strategies, pledging members to remain actively engaged in the forum's work, and to develop a measurement matrix to plot progress.

Within each of these broad objectives the strategy provides specific activity plans, including a whole-of-forum project to improve the safety performance of contractors and suppliers, a survey to examine the scope of members' drug and alcohol programmes, and a campaign to raise awareness of OHS issues within the Institute of Directors.

The forum began life in July 2010 as an informal coalition of business leaders, became an incorporated society last November, and was formally constituted as a membership body in January.

"It's early days for us but we have already achieved some interesting things, one of which was to develop an online assessment tool which CEOs can use to benchmark their own performance as health and safety leaders.

"More than 100 chief executives have now completed these assessments, and the results show a very strong overall commitment to safety."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the area where CEOs tended to score themselves lowest was on taking time to develop OHS skills. Hughes says that while the forum requires committed membership, it is aware of the time pressures facing many of its members.

"We are looking at different ways of having engagement without diminishing the value of what we do. In some cases CEOs have arranged for one of their very senior people to attend on their behalf when they are unavailable. We have to be pragmatic about this, but also remember that for the forum to be successful we need chief executives to be committed to it."

Hughes believes the strategy's sign-off represents the start of an exciting new phase for the forum, coinciding as it does with the launch of the health and safety review taskforce, headed by forum chair Rob Jager, and with the conclusion of the Pike River enquiry.

"We can't lead change unless there is an appetite for change to occur. In the present environment there is real potential for some very positive change, and the forum is well placed to lead it."

People Mentioned:
Julian Hughes; Rob Jager
Organisations Mentioned:
Business Leaders' Health and Safety Forum
Reference No:

From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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