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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard Magazine

Conference diary

PETER BATEMAN reports on some of the sessions at the Safeguard National Health & Safety Conference. See for the complete programme.

An opportunity for health and safety people to catch up with old friends, make new contacts, swap war stories and useful lessons, and plan how they can help each other in the weeks and months ahead.

And – of course – to learn from and be entertained by a terrific lineup of New Zealand and three international speakers on a range of technical and not-so-technical subjects.

Our conference always has a relaxed and friendly vibe and this year was no exception, with the just over 200 delegates asking questions of the speakers, allowing themselves to be cheerfully manipulated by MC Terry Williams, mingling with the standholders, and taking full advantage of the catering at SkyCity Convention Centre.

Lesley Haines from the Department of Labour opened proceedings by recalling the palpable sense of loss she experienced from the families at the Pike River hearings in Greymouth. Nevertheless she felt optimistic about reducing the toll of workplace injury and death due to a conjunction of factors: a substantial funding boost recently announced, together with a high-level strategic review and the September report of the Pike River commission.

“We have committed to cutting workplace deaths by a quarter by 2020. We looked closely if this was do-able. We looked at the road toll. I think it is do-able.”

Keynote speaker Kelvin Genn, from Sinclair Knight Merz in Australia, challenged the conference to work to change the brand of safety. At present, he said, safety is viewed as being about stopping things from happening: prescription, prohibition, paperwork, procedures, policing and punishment.

Search Google for images relating to safety, he said, and you’ll find warning and danger signs. “Is this the brand that safety is really about? We have attached ‘fear’ to safety: fear of being injured, of being prosecuted, or losing your job.”

He said OHS needs to be rebranded so that it becomes associated with innovation: an opportunity to do work in new and better ways that are not only safer and healthier but more productive.

Rob Jager from Shell Todd Oil Services talked about leadership in general and the progress being made by the Business Leaders Health & Safety Forum in particular. “Leadership is about action, not about what we say or what we think.”

He said there were three elements to safety leadership: a passion for safety; investing in and caring for people; and compliance/accountability, so that your OHS regime is adhered to, not just talked about.

“At least once a month I and my senior leadership team visit one of our sites. We attend toolbox talks, we observe the work, and we talk to the guys about how they stay safe. We sit down with the guys at smoko time and find out what’s important to them.”

Keith Stewart from the Department of Labour – who was to receive a lifetime achievement award at the awards dinner that evening – absorbed the conference in the detail of the DoL investigation into the IcePak coolstore at Tamahere. With the site and all its records almost totally destroyed by the explosion and fire, sifting through the wreckage and through suppliers’ invoices became a key part of reconstructing what happened, as was working with the coroner and with insurance companies, each of which was doing a parallel investigation.

“It was quite positive having different investigations at the same time, provided you can work together. You get a different set of lenses, you get stuff you might have missed.”

Genevieve Hawkins from Australia’s WSP Group challenged delegates to move beyond technical aspects of safety to focus on the quality of the relationships they had with the people around them at work. She spoke about difficult but necessary conversations that many of us avoid, and how to reframe them so that we ask questions out of curiosity rather than criticism.

What’s it like to make the move from OHS manager to operational manager? Denva Galloway from Progressive Enterprises took us on just such a journey, including the pressure of having to deal with the impact of the Canterbury earthquakes on the company’s Christchurch logistics operation.

Labour minister Kate Wilkinson spoke about the success of the new High Hazards Unit in having the right people with the right skills and experience and the respect of the industry they work in. She said the taskforce shortly to be announced to review New Zealand’s OHS system would have a scope “targeted enough to be meaningful but broad enough to allow fresh thinking”.

Our third Australian guest, Damien Bassett from DuPont Sustainable Solutions, outlined DuPont’s approach to fitting process safety into the wider OHS framework, and spoke about how every meeting begins with a “safety share” – an opportunity to raise an issue or share a story relating in some way to health and safety.

In the final session, Ann Andrews from The Corporate Toolbox told enthralling and entertaining stories from her experiences working for chicken processing and computer software firms, and how we could all apply the lessons she absorbed. Everyone went away buzzing – and a few lucky delegates were even more excited after they won prizes in the concluding prize draws.

We at Safeguard will now take a rest for at least twenty minutes before starting to plan next year’s conference. See you there!


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