Thanks Jonathon. Lets have a look at your references in a moment.
But first we should look at the question posed by Corrections, in the OIA request which is to paraphrase “Can we improve the health and well being of our staff”. Their answer being “yes we can – by buying slushy machines”.
It is at this point we know the purchase of the slushy machines is not a Health and Safety compliance issue. We know this because the Act says “protecting workers and other persons against harm to their health, safety, and welfare by eliminating or minimising risks arising from work”. There is clearly a difference between improving health and protecting workers.
So the obvious answer to Peters opening question has to be “wasteful expenditure”. There is no onus on an employer to improve an employee’s health – that is a personal responsibility.
Corrections then go on to mangle the issue. They state they want to “reduce core body temperature in excessive heat conditions while minimizing the risk of sodium depletion”. I think that what we can read from this (and in a nod to your NZ First aid link) they want to reduce the risk of a heat related illness.
The trouble with this is that Correction know there is no risk. They know this because their “research” says so.
“What research?” some might ask. Well it goes like this.
From the OIA document we can establish that the summer of 2016/17 is a control year with Officers facing three variables: environmental temperature; clothing and prison muster. That control year establishes the base line of zero incidents of heat related illness. (If there was I’m sure the OIA request would have mentioned it.)
Corrections then move onto their test year – 2017/2018. Here they change two variables. They increase environmental temperature to “significantly higher than usually experienced” and “Wellington recording its hottest temperature since records began in 2017. “
They also increased prison muster in excess of 10,700. The increase in these two variables saw the likes of Auckland working in temperature ranging from 27 – 29 degrees with a muster of over 1,000.
At this point its probably worth noting that there appears to be no records kept of Officer core body temperatures (how do they know temperatures are reduced if they don’t know a starting point?)
So what were the results of this testing? Nothing. Despite the significant increase in variables there were “no major incidents occurring”. The very worse result was “significant discomfort”.
If we look now at your First Aid reference there appears to be four levels of illness. First is “Discomfort” which isn’t an illness or harm – its simply a yellow flag warning. Next is “Heat Cramps” (none of those were reported), then comes “Heat Exhaustion” (none reported) and finally there is life threatening “Heat Stroke” (and none of those were reported.)
So we can now conclude there is no risk of heat related illness in the Corrections department work environment. There is no safety or well being issue to improve. So no need for Slushy machines. So it’s Wasteful Expenditure as there is no risk of harm to eliminate or minimize.
Corrections then mangle the issue even further and let the cat out of the bag. “The Machines offer an ongoing benefit of……… improving staff performance during extreme hot weather”
So its not a health and safety issue. Its a performance management issue.
So back to Peters original question “H&S practitioners face this dilemma every day: seeking funds to implement an intervention, and being asked to justify the expenditure in terms of the expected reduction in risk.
In the slushy case, what does the team think: wasteful expenditure or justifiable intervention?”
The answer has to be “wasteful expenditure”