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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Problem or opportunity?

Problem or opportunity?
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New Zealand

The introduction of new legislation next year offers a rare chance to reframe health and safety as an opportunity for senior management rather than a problem.

Genevieve Hawkins, GM Group TeamCover with Wesfarmers, told the Safeguard conference in Auckland last month that in Australia the new legislation had created a panic, with the focus on fines, jail time and other "legalistic stuff" which treated OHS largely as a compliance problem. "We don't get excited about compliance. We get excited about opportunities."

She challenged delegates to create a business case for health and safety which would grab the attention of a CEO, could be explained in less than ten minutes, and would focus on two or three things which would make a measurable difference in reducing serious harm. If she were to arrive in your organisation as the new CEO, she said, she would ask you three questions:

  • Can I see the health & safety risk profile?
  • Can you explain it to me?
  • How should I spend my time on health & safety?

"How long would you take to tell me? If it's more than ten minutes, you've lost me."

Rather than focus on compliance, the trick is to outline the opportunity for effective risk management, leveraging the new legislation's requirement for positive due diligence. Hawkins presented five key questions an organisation's executive team needed to keep asking:

  • Given what you do, what could go wrong?
  • How wrong could it go?
  • Given that, what do you do to make sure it doesn't go really wrong?
  • What gives you confidence it won't go really wrong? (And what do you do if it does go really wrong?)
  • How do you get your team involved in stopping things going wrong while getting the job done?

The absence of bad news isn't enough to meet the requirements of positive due diligence, she noted. The executive has a positive duty to enquire, using this set of questions. "Our goal is to place the right information in their heads to prompt them to ask the right questions."

The problem, she said, is that health and safety people are in danger of becoming the problem. "We are all passionate about safety. We all want to see change. But we get caught up in our expertise, instead of understanding the organisation you work in and what will make the biggest difference."

Hawkins recommended developing a case for health and safety that is simple, practical and achievable, and which aligns with business needs. It should identify two or three things which would make a real difference, and should focus on getting people to talk and make decisions about health and safety rather than filling in forms.

In other words, the business case is a tool for guiding the organisation's culture to a better place.

As for reporting, Hawkins recommended a monthly report to the CEO/executive, of one page, containing information to help guide them to ask the right questions of their managers, which in turn helps transform the culture.
"You want to trigger their curiosity about what is actually going on out there, and can you shift it to a different place?"

People Mentioned:
Genevieve Hawkins
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From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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