Comments

  • Helen Kelly Together
    Saw this last night. As well as being a compelling portrait of Helen and the women she supported (and who supported her), it is also a terrific reminder about why health & safety matters.
  • The Hazards of Work: How to Fight Them
    It's yours! And yes, I'd had the same thought about it predating the first piece of Robins legislation.
  • Keeping injured workers in the loop
    To give some richer context to this question, here FYI is a story we published in Safeguard Update in March 2018 on Australian research (with NZ input) into exactly this question.

    Those left behind
    A survey of more than 200 family members of people killed at work has revealed deep frustration over how the criminal justice system responds and has identified a number of key factors which would improve the experience for those left behind.

    Dr Lynda Matthews from the University of Sydney told a conference at AUT that families are left “incredibly isolated” by the system of regulatory investigation and coronial enquiries following a workplace death.

    The study was carried out in three phases, starting with 48 interviews with unions, lawyers and government agencies in Australia. Then came a survey of 212 families from around the world, two-thirds from Australia with others from Canada, the USA, the UK, New Zealand and Singapore. The average time since the death of a loved one was just over seven years, and 89% of respondents were female: partners and parents.

    The health of respondents had been badly affected by the death of their loved one, including mental health conditions such as PTSD, depression, grief disorder, mood swings and anxiety. Guilt was frequently cited.

    “Most said their partner had talked about concerns at work but they had done nothing," said Matthews.

    Then came the frustrations of dealing with investigations by police and H&S inspectors, prosecutions through the courts, workers compensation claims, common law claims, and coronial enquiries. Respondents felt they rarely had input into these processes, and reported it took vigilance for up to ten years to keep track of what was going on. “I am just this lone voice in the wilderness,” reported one respondent, who Matthews said characterised all respondents “to a T”.

    Respondents attributed their declining health to a number of factors besides the shock of a sudden death: the bureaucracy of the formal processes, the lack of timely information, their lack of opportunity for input, and the sheer length of proceedings.

    “They have no power, no input, no legal right to be anywhere. They are suspicious and they trust nobody. It’s a long time to keep on your guard.”

    The researchers identified a number of common needs of any family faced with a sudden workplace death:

    To receive timely and accurate information all through the process;
    To participate in the process to ensure their voice is heard;
    To know that a thorough investigation was done so the how and why is answered;
    To know that someone or something was held accountable so justice is seen to be done;
    To know that actions have been taken to prevent similar future deaths; and
    To receive adequate emotional and financial support as acknowledgment that the death has significant long-term effects on those left behind.

    Long time H&S researcher Michael Quinlan, who was also involved in the study, told delegates the question was: how should the criminal justice system respond?

    “It’s not just about punishment and deterrence, it’s about the community asserting that people’s lives at work matter.”

    Referencing the Pike River mine disaster, he argued there is a public interest to demonstrate the system cares enough to run a prosecution, even if the outcome is not certain. And if a death does not result in a prosecution, it requires coroners who know about H&S and know what kind of questions to ask.

    “I have never seen it asked: how is the legal system working for the families? People get a sense when they are being conned. The families believe the criminal justice system doesn’t accord workplace deaths due significance.”
  • Drug testing: time to abandon it being limited to safety-sensitive areas only?
    The Safeguard piece by Kylie Dunn and Bella Moore is now available here.
  • Drug testing: time to abandon it being limited to safety-sensitive areas only?
    Later this year - in the May/June edition - the magazine will take a look at workplace drug testing in the context of the marijuana referendum to be held at the same time as the general election, announced yesterday to be held on 19 September.
  • Entries open for the NZ Workplace Health & Safety Awards 2020
    The idea is to acknowledge and encourage the younger people in H&S, given it is - like so many - an ageing profession.

    Bear in mind the 'Practitioner' category remains alongside the new 'Emerging Practitioner' category, so any other H&S person who has carried out some noteworthy initiatives in the last year or so should be nominated for 'Practitioner'.

    (Note that all categories except Lifetime Achievement are focused on a person or organisation's recent initiatives. So 'Practitioner' is open to any H&S practitioner of any level of experience.)
  • Submissions on Proposed Regulatory Changes
    Re your suggestion that Safeguard runs the submissions process for any H&S issue. Genius! We could take your idea and go a step further. Since health & safety people are known throughout the land for their wisdom and modesty, and are universally popular, why not restrict the franchise to Safeguard subscribers only?

    I can't imagine why anyone could possibly object to this.

    And with that thought I'll wish all Forum members a Merry Christmas! I look forward to further interesting discussions in 2020. We recently passed 900 Forum members. Perhaps next year we'll crack 1000? Spread the word - all are welcome!
  • Availability of good candidates to fill H&S roles
    At the risk of starting a tangential thread, your 'cultural and wellbeing influencer' is a good example of the need to rebrand H&S. FWIW, the descriptor I've been touting for the last few years is 'healthy work design'. Who wouldn't want to introduce themselves as a healthy work designer?
    Reasoning: 'healthy' because everyone wants to be healthy; 'work' because that is our playground; 'designer' because design is a positive word with suggestions of collaboration and talking with people.
    Also, it goes without saying that 'healthy work design' regards safety as a subset of health, though I appreciate some would find it hard to let the S-word go.
  • Frivolous Friday
    I rate LTI data in the same way I rate "Gender Pay Gap" data
    The recently completed Safeguard income survey reveals a small but encouraging drop in the gender pay gap as it exists in the H&S field. Results will appear in the next mag shortly.
    Readers who don't rate such things can of course just skip that bit.
  • Environment Portfolio
    Not sure about other forums, but I can reveal that 45% of the 450-odd people who responded to Safeguard's recent Income survey (currently being analysed) said they also have environmental responsibilities.
    This forum allows for the creation of multiple categories. Currently there are only two: Q&A and Discussion. We could create a third category, Environment, if members think that is a good idea.
    Each member is able to customise their Forum experience by, for example, excluding categories they aren't interested in.
    Similarly, we could create a category for H&S reps, to encourage more of them to join the Forum and generate discussion.
    However, the argument against creating multiple categories is that such fragmentation is unnecessary in quite a small H&S community.
    Happy to hear more arguments for and against over the next week.
  • Safeguard income survey 2019
    More than 300 people have done the survey so far - have you?

    The results of the survey are used by the wider H&S community and by organisations who require H&S-related services, so by all means consider it a public service to do the survey!
  • Safeguard income survey 2019
    By popular demand, attached is the write-up about last year's income survey, published in the Sept/Oct 2018 edition of Safeguard.
    Attachment
    SG171 salary survey 2018 (272K)
  • ICAM Investigation Course
    I can't speak about ICAM but I understand many incident investigations stop at the point where the investigator concludes "operator error".

    Todd Conklin's thoughts on this in the latest Safeguard are pertinent.
  • Should higher penalties be applied to larger companies?
    Whether size of fine promotes change in the defendant company is interesting, but the question at hand isn't about that.

    The question is about the courts setting a starting point for a fine, and then looking at both mitigating and aggravating factors to reduce or increase the amount.

    One aggravating factor which NZ courts don't seem to consider - but UK courts now do - is that a large company with ample funds should have the resourcing to do H&S well, and therefore should face an increased penalty (given the company can hardly argue lack of funds to pay).

    The UK requires courts do consider this, in quite a structured way. Should NZ courts do something similar, even if not so structured?
  • Technology, our ability to communicate and prequal!
    Yes!
    What can we do about it? That's a harder one. I understand WorkSafe is aware of the disquiet over prequal schemes and is doing some work on this.
  • Safeguard Conference Catch Ups
    I'll be sitting in my habitual table at front right of the room if anyone wants to have a chat during breaks.
  • Poll on manslaughter and marijuana
    The poll has been open a week and 50 people took part - thanks to all of you!
    Support for industrial manslaughter is evenly split. Personally, I'm not yet persuaded a new law is necessary, for the reason suggested by @Drew Rae, and also because the HSW Act already contains ample provision for imprisonment. The courts so far have been reluctant to go anywhere near the maximum penalty provisions, but presumably Parliament put them there for a reason.

    On marijuana, I can't see why its decriminalisation (should it ever happen) would have any effect on drug and alcohol policies. Alcohol is an extremely potent legal drug, and marijuana is a less potent illegal drug. Both are widely tested for already. Therefore what difference does it make if the item being tested for is legal or illegal? (Unless, of course, companies aren't really testing for impairment/safety, but for another agenda altogether.)
  • Contractor Pre qualification /approval systems
    Rob, I think this is the case you're thinking of. Here is our story from the Sept/Oct 2015 edition of Safeguard.

    A civil contracting company has successfully defended a charge arising from a trench collapse after the court rejected the regulator’s arguments that its contractor pre-qualification process, and its JSA and other documentation, were inadequate.

    Dempsey Wood Civil Ltd, the main contractor at a site being developed by Auckland International Airport Ltd, had been charged under s18(a) of the HSE Act after an employee of one of its subcontractors was injured in a trench collapse. The charge was dismissed (Papakura DC, 22 May 2015).

    The July 2013 incident involved two employees of subcontractor company Draeinail Construction Ltd (which pleaded guilty to a separate charge). One of them was in the bottom of a trench ensuring a stormwater pipe was correctly aligned. The other operated an excavator positioned close to the edge of the trench, with its arm extended over the other man. Clay came loose from the front face of the trench, striking the man at the bottom and causing crush injuries to his pelvis.

    The front face of the trench was benched with two steps cut to a vertical face of 1.8m each, and a 1.2m wide slot had been cut into the top edge to give the excavator driver better visibility. However the front face had not been battered to a safe slope.

    In court, WorkSafe argued there were five practicable steps Dempsey’s could have taken to prevent the incident. They can be grouped into three alleged failings, the first of which was failure to effectively pre-qualify Draeinail to ensure it had a recorded OHS policy and a safe system of work, including method statements and hazard register/controls and a documented system for reviewing these. Assumptions based on previous experience with Draeinail would be insufficient, it was argued.

    The Court rejected this argument, noting that Dempsey’s had worked with Draeinail since 2008, viewed the people involved as high quality, and had received positive feedback about the subcontractor from 20 project managers.

    An expert witness for the defence said that documented systems could be helpful, but for a small “hands-on” contractor it is usually more valuable to know of their track record from direct experience than to rely purely on system documents.

    The court found it was reasonable for Dempsey’s to rely on its prior knowledge of Draeinail’s health and safety practices.

    The second group of alleged failings related to documentation: that Dempsey’s could have ensured a documented safe work method system for the trenching work was developed and communicated to contractors; and that an adequate JSA relating to the specific work had been developed and discussed daily with all workers.

    While both parties agreed Dempsey’s project management plan was acceptable, WorkSafe noted that only one JSA had been completed, in April, three months after work had begun and three months before the incident; and that it had been prepared as a response to an incident in February when a Draeinail employee had been observed working outside the trench shield. WorkSafe said this should have alerted Dempsey’s to the need to monitor Draeinail more closely; nor was Draeinail required to attend daily pre-start meetings.

    WorkSafe argued a JSA should be reviewed daily before work starts. The expert witness took the view that the prepared JSA was a comprehensive and generic document for all excavations deeper than 1.5m, and that it was unnecessary for each excavation to have its own JSA. He said documented systems of work are important at project level and provide a standard against which to audit, but the work on the ground was carried out by experienced people who communicated verbally.

    The court also noted that the excavator driver had started on site only two days earlier and had not yet taken part in the weekly site induction for new workers.

    The third step allegedly not taken was to monitor Draenail’s performance against Dempsey’s overall project management plan, especially after the February incident. Evidence was given that Dempsey’s conducted monthly audits and daily site inspections, and had visited the site twice already on the day in question. The court accepted this monitoring as adequate.

    The Court accepted the JSA could have been more specific and the tailgate meetings better documented, but noted there was an agreed approach regarding dealing safely with the front face of a trench, and that Draeinail were the drainlaying experts.

    The Court found the cause of the accident was due to decisions made by various Draeinail staff over a brief period of time, and that the decision by an experienced excavator driver to proceed very close to the face and then scoop out part of it, while a man was directly below, was difficult to comprehend and an “elementary error of judgement” which could not have been anticipated by Dempsey’s.
  • New thinking in health & safety - community of practice
    Gentle reminder to all members: when you wish to reply to another member with something that adds no value to the discussion (eg: "thanks", or "I'm in") the best way to do it is via private message, so it doesn't clutter up the main thread.

    Private messages are easy to send. Just click on a member's profile icon and then select "Send a message", and off you go. No one else will see these messages - just you and the recipient.