• Peter Bateman
    228
    The phone call went something like this.
    Caller: Do you do investigative stories?
    Me: Sometimes. What's the issue?
    Caller: There's a company out there selling a non-compliant H&S system to SMEs and they need to be exposed!!!
    Me: Interesting. May I ask where you fit in the H&S ecosystem?
    Caller: We sell H&S systems. To SMEs. But our system is compliant!
    Me: So ... this other crowd is a competitor?
    Caller: <awkward pause> Yes.

    The conversation raises once again the vexed issue of H&S consultants selling glorified manuals (even if, these days, they are dressed up as software) to SME business owners who want to tick off health & safety as 'done' and never have to think about it again. They are an easy source of income to people who promise their particular 'system' will make H&S go away and leave the business 'compliant' with H&S legislation.

    Of course, SMEs should be able to call on specialist advice when they are grappling with H&S. No problem with that. But the thing is, no one can contract out of their H&S duties. As a business owner, you have to do the hard yards yourself: find out what the risks are, understand the ways to eliminate or minimise them, and so on. To do this you have to walk around the business, observe operations, talk to your people, and so on. You have to really and truly understand risk exposure, and no one else can do this for you.

    You can get a H&S specialist in to help steer you in the right direction, to understand some of the less obvious risks that your people (or the public) might face, particularly risks to physical and mental health. But the heavy lifting must be done by the SME itself.

    And you don't just do this once and never again. It's a process, a mindset, and one which must always involve the people exposed to the risks that your business creates.

    As for being 'compliant', that is an illusion. No system can make your business compliant with the HSW Act. If something goes wrong and someone is hurt and the regulator investigates, and finds that the maintenance crew forgot to put a guard back on a machine, and that you, the boss, had walked past that guard lying on the floor for weeks and did nothing about it, you are non-compliant, regardless of your expensive H&S software system. If you are taken to court you will have no defence.

    Which is what I told the caller, except more bluntly.
  • Adam Parkinson
    14
    Very well said. Thanks
  • Chris Alderson
    22
    Totally agree Peter - implementing a safety management system does not make you compliant with the H&S act as many peddlers of HSMS documentation and systems would like you to believe.

    I was working for a client (in a previous life) who were very compliance orientated - being in the financial services sector. They strenuously wanted to know what documentation they needed to fill out to be compliant with the HASAWA and thought of it in the same vein as complying with Anti Money Laundering legislation etc. I grew frustrated and told them that to be compliant with the act they had to do what they needed to, to avoid putting somebody in hospital or the morgue. Queue embarrassing silence and shuffling of feet - obviously not the answer they wanted.
  • Chris Peace
    63
    Did you mention section 45(b) to them?
    And the Fair Trading Act?
    I am reminded of my comments in another posting about developing a single "management system" based on Annex SL, ISO9001, etc and (of course) ISO45001. All applied using the KISS principle.

    Hello to all readers who provide OHS consultancy services to SMEs. Help them develop effective ways to run the business that include embedded OHS systems.
    Compliance will follow.
  • Aaron Marshall
    77

    I had a H&S consultant challenge me on having a 'quality and safety' manual. He couldn't understand that there is a lot of overlap between the two systems.
  • Rob McAulay
    19
    Well put Peter. Even with all the media over incidents and managing risks, people are still looking for the easy way out, to paraphrase Richard Branson "if you look after your people, they will look after the business" that train of thinking applies across the board in all disciplines of business.
  • Sherralynne Smith
    9
    Well put Peter. We need to ensure that PCBU's don't think that H&S is just a tick box exercise and their systems and processes are reviewed regularly.
  • Annalisa
    24
    Its gutting to see some SMEs completely misled by consultants, to have paid thousands for essentially a copy and pasted document that has no specific relevance to their operations. The worst I ever saw was a few years ago for a steel beam structure factory, their manual referred several times to 'the beauty salon' , obviously from the last client. MBIE used to have a good page on how to question and assess a HS consultant to ensure your getting quality advice, it can be tricky for companies to know 'what good looks like'
  • Rowly Brown
    48
    The analogy I have used many times when addressing this issue with prospective clients is that health and safety compliance is rather like tax compliance, because most businesses have an inkling that they will have to pay attention to taxation obligations.
    1 Both business obligations (tax and H and S) are mandated through and underpinned by legislation;
    2 Business owners can decide what proportion of their duties they wish to physically manage themselves and what will be contracted/delegated to an external advisor;
    3 Some advisers are knowledgeable and experienced, and some not so.
    4 There is a variety of software available to guide the process, some better than others, and its buyer beware;
    5 There are substantial benefits and advantages to be gained from getting it right;
    6 There are substantial penalties for getting it wrong;
    7 Whichever support path the business chooses - going it alone or engaging an advisor - it is prudent to get a specialist to assess (audit) the business at least annually with a gap analysis to identify strengths and weaknesses and advise on where advantages can be gained, or penalties for non-compliance incurred.
  • TracyR
    25
    Problem is usaually the clients have not understanding of what is being implemented. When I was contracting and implementing systems they generally were accompanied by HSE training and worksops to build the capability of the staff and teach the staff where their accountabilities lie. The basics need to be covered such as overview of legislation, systems, incident management, risk management, contract management, employee participation and engagement and auditing. The client and the employees need to understand why they are using the system, what is the purpose of the information and what is it going to be used for. A system is as good as its usability.
  • Brett Murray
    2
    Good response Peter. I recall in my WorkSafe days listening to an ad on the radio by a company peddling their H&S wares, assuring prospective clients that in the event of an accident they would 'deal' with regulator on their clients behalf. I just shook my head!
  • Petra Hakansson
    15
    As a business owner, it is frustrating to have competitors copy what you do, knowing what they are doing is not the same at all, but to someone who is not specialised may appear that way. And the motivation could be that the caller you had, actually genuinely wanted to protect people from wasting money and even having a false sense of security. Unfortunately it is relatively easy in NZ to sell non compliant "anythings" without too much recourse. I know in our industry, there are still non compliant devices being sold (operating on an illegal to use MhZ bands). And if you try to call it out, you're seen as being "anti competitive". But actually a lot of companies, passionately care about the difference they can make. I think assuming they're trying to "play dirty" is cynical. And yes, there is still a lot of box ticking going on. Even surprisingly from companies that have had close calls. The disconnect between operational staff and directors is evident weekly to us.
  • Sheri Greenwell
    290
    - yes. this is an interesting side conversation of the move to HASANZ. I personally know a few people who have completed a post-graduate diploma of occupational safety and health, who have by virtue of this qualification achieved Graduate member status in NZISM and would therefore be eligible for the HASANZ register, yet I know from personal experience that they do not have sugfficient depth of understanding, leadership skills, systems thinking or all the professionalism we would hope for from someone aiming to work as a consultant. These people would focus most on how much money they could get rather than on what was right for a client, and their need to be right and / or seen as 'expert' would see them impose bureaucratic systems that don't necessarily deliver required results.

    I have even seen a consultant who had previously been a senior H&S manager attempt to deliver risk management training where he relied entirely on the text he had copied into his slides; when trainees asked questions, he just read the slide again - he clearly did not understand the content himself and had no business being in the front of the room trying to train others in it.

    I also know a number of people who intuitively know how to go about this, don't over-rely on their qualifications or don't even have formal qualifications, who do their own thinking and problem-solving, make authentic connections with people and put the client's interests first. This latter way of going about their work is what HASANZ was intending but its over-emphasis on qualifications rather than skills, experience, personality traits and values seems to be taking it even further off the mark.
  • Philip Aldridge
    22
    Part of HASANZ's role is help get rid of the ''cowboys'' - though this will take a while. We are educating business on the need to select H&S people with appropriate skills, quals and experience. A lot of business don't know who to go to and end up buying glorified manuals. The HASANZ Register is part of this approach - people need to have both quals and experience. Plus demonstrate in competencies they select.
    Also we have a big focus on H&S workforce development. We know that about half of the current H&S workforce is over 50 years old and half don't have quals in H&S (though they often have quals in other areas). If we compare H&S to other professionals such as engineering and accountancy we have a way to go
  • Annalisa
    24
    Hi Sheree, I agree the qualification provides sound theoretical knowledge and best practice approach, but it really is the time out in the field and exposure to managing risk and driving strategy that needs to be considered. I’d have hoped HASANZ registration requires both, surely it does?
    I wonder if a site could be developed for reviews of health and safety professionals, akin to ‘Buildercrack’ reviews for builders. :-)
    The money grabbing exercise of provided ‘off the shelf systems’ at exorbitant rates is of high concern. HR companies provide health and safety systems for tens of thousands, the vagueness of the documentation may indicate to a bamboozled client they are now ‘compliant’ however they really have nothing comprehensible in relation to their actual work activities or key relationships with other PCBUs.
    As you state ‘authentic connections’ are vital for the reputation of the profession, so is building knowledge and continually learning, often by way of achieving qualifications to stretch our points of view and comprehension. :nerd:
  • Sheri Greenwell
    290
    It's still too easy to give the right answers in theoretical questions typically posed for such qualifications - especially when people who have been schooled in traditional OHS dogmas and practice, on assessments based in the same frameworks and lacking sufficient grasp of meaningful competency frameworks (such as Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning), and still diverge completely from what really works for businesses in the real world. Even a simple review of the competency framework for Levels 5-6 in OHS shows significant gaps in meaningful business management and leadership skills yet the framework suggests people who have completed these levels would have the requisite skills to perform at an organisation-wide management level. They lack the people skills and strategic planning skills, and especially this training appears only to train them to perpetuate OHS frameworks that are demonstrably out of step with business needs. This is not only setting up everyone within this system for failure - both practitioners and businesses they work with - but also excluding people who are actively engaging with businesses, influencing change, doing their own independent / self-directed studies in a real world context, adapting and working out how best to achieve safe workplaces and still support businesses to thrive and adapt.
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