• Peter Bateman
    July 22, 2018
    A recent item on Radio NZ's Checkpoint programme raises an interesting issue about corporate accountability following a workplace fatality.
    In 2016 a man was killed at Toll's Onehunga depot. The company pleaded guilty and was convicted and fined.
    According to Checkpoint, the restorative justice conference between Toll and the family was unsatisfactory. What the family wants is for a senior manager at Toll to stand alongside them, in public, and say sorry.
    This is so often the case: quite apart from the law, what victim's families most want is to have their voice heard, and to have someone stand up in front of them and apologise.
    It makes accountability personal.
    I understand how awkward and embarrassing this would be, but surely it is the right thing to do?
  • Peter Bateman
    July 13, 2018
    A reporter with the Rotorua Daily Post has used the OIA to request a dutyholder review completed by a local company after a man was injured while using a lathe. You can read the story here.
    The details of the incident aren't important. What struck me were these three paragraphs:

    "The review concluded the direct causes of the accident were human error, complacency when completing a task that was not well suited to the lathe, and the worker not having used the lathe in at least six weeks.

    "It identified the root causes, which, if added or removed, would have prevented the incident from happening, to be the absence of documented safety procedures for the worker to revise before using the machine, the absence of hazard identification or risk assessment completed on the lathe, the lack of controls such as guards or signage around the lathe and that the lathe was left out of the bi-annual safe machinery audit.

    "Additional possible causes identified in the review included a lack of understanding and instruction, fatigue, dietary options (energy drinks) and the injured worker's arrogant attitude."

    Whew! That covers just about every possible cause and then some. But I'm intrigued: is it still acceptable in 2018 to cite "human error" as a cause of an incident? Or the operator's alleged attitude?

    I don't think so. What do you think?
  • Peter Bateman
    July 5, 2018
    The publication of Dame Margaret Bazley’s report into unacceptable behaviour at law firm Russell McVeagh has provoked a sharp response from barrister Catriona MacLennan, who rejects a number of Dame Margaret’s conclusions regarding the importance of alcohol and a “work hard, play hard” culture at the firm. In particular, she takes issue with Dame Margaret’s view that it could take ten years to implement large-scale culture change.
    “It is actually very simple,” she writes in Stuff. “All Russell McVeagh and other law firms have to do is offer women lawyers the same pay as they offer men when they hire them. Appoint women and men to partnerships according to the same criteria. And do not sexually harass female lawyers and interns. There is nothing hard about any of this. Describing it as a difficult process that requires a long time to implement is simply an excuse for either doing nothing, or for doing very little.”
    The report is a disturbing account of organisational culture and behaviour, but from a health & safety perspective two questions spring to my mind.
    First, is psychological harm on the radar of health & safety practitioners? I suspect not. Probably most of them would hasten to flick the responsibility to HR. But if the core mission of H&S is to prevent harm by identifying risks and doing something about them, then psychosocial risk should be right up there on the risk register. Because the harm it causes is horribly real.
    Second, how long does culture change take? This is a question of great interest to H&S practitioners, who often find their best efforts are thwarted because their organisation is not yet at the appropriate point on some so-called maturity curve. Catriona MacLennan reckons it ought to take a hell of a lot less than ten years, provided the key barriers to change are clearly identified. I would certainly like to think so.

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