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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Alert24 - Safeguard Update

Critical risks challenge

Critical risks challenge
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Publication Date:
New Zealand

How many businesses have identified their critical health and safety risks along with their key controls, and are using this information to inform training programmes, employee engagement, and board reporting?

This was the implicit challenge laid down by WorkSafe New Zealand chief executive Nicole Rosie at the recent EMA health and safety conference in Auckland.

She told delegates that on a recent roadshow she met 35 employers, most of which had pretty good H&S records and were happy to show her their declining TRIFR graphs. Yet only 60 percent could tell her their critical risks, and fewer than 30 percent understood both their critical risks and the key controls to manage them.

One employer cited traffic management on site as a critical risk but proposed better signage and training as the control – purely administrative controls at the lowest level.

“It concerned me that fewer than half of these good employers knew about the hierarchy of controls. How many of you report to your executive team on your controls, and are you working to move your controls up the hierarchy?"

She said it was unlikely that a sole focus on LTIs and TRIFR would reveal an organisation’s critical risks, because research showed only 15 to 30 percent of incidents could ever have resulted in serious injury or death. Also, some risks such as explosions won’t ever appear in the statistics because by nature there are few precursor events.

Employee engagement is crucial in fully identifying critical risks because businesses are “100 percent reliant” on employees in that process. Rosie cited Pike River and the failure of mine worker knowledge about faulty methane monitors to reach the board: does your executive and board team have a conduit to the worker voice?

Critical risks relate to training too, she said. Is staff health and safety training generic, or does it tie in to the critical risks identified, and the controls required to manage them?

Heinrich’s pyramid, she said, isn’t the best way to look at things. Not only does it invite loss of focus on critical risks, but it also obscures health risks altogether. Based on “pretty good data now”, she said between 300 and 600 people die each year from work-related health exposures.

“This is the burning platform which business is not focused on. Our inspectors will be looking more and more at this.”

Reviewing the injury and death statistics, Rosie said the fatality rate is trending slowly down but the actual number of deaths per year remains about the same due to the rise in the working population. However, the only sector to significantly shift has been forestry.

“We’re not seeing the same shift across manufacturing, construction, agriculture. There’s lots of work to do.”



People Mentioned:
Nicole Rosie
Organisations Mentioned:
WorkSafe NZ
Reference No:

From Alert24 - Safeguard Update

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