Comments

  • Occupational Health Monitoring - Employees Who Want to Opt Out
    It would make very good sense to include expectations for ongoing health monitoring for all new contracts. But NZ's ERA legislation also means that existing workers (especially long-serving employees who have many years if service) cannot have a new contractual requirement imposed on them without an appropriate consultation process.....what to do, eh?!??
  • Telarc Audits - Re-write your SMS to follow ISO 450001 format
    That's preposterous!!

    I would create a navigational guide that can assist the auditor to find what they are looking for. I always say the auditor doesn't live here, but YOU do.

    It's absolutely vital that the system is set up to support the business, not just to make life easy for the auditors - we pay auditors to think, apply, interpret, probe and verify against the criteria, not to dictate the structure.

    I like to think of the organisation's management system as a single building with multiple entrances; you can provide different stakeholders with different navigational strategies that all link into the same management system that is already established and proven effective.

    In the past, I have used hyperlinked documents to assist auditing. You could also set up a page on the intranet that links to your existing management system but is organised with links that relate to the relevant standard for ease of auditing.

    It's also an important consideration that different auditors have different perspectives and hobby horses. What's to say if you set the system up to suit one auditor that it would necessarily suit a different auditor at a different time??

    At the end of the day, if we start shaping our systems for passing audits instead of what works for the organisation, we are headed down a slippery slope.
  • Covid vaccination - can it be required on H&S grounds?
    It's complicated....

    This is another example where HSWA, Employment Relations Act and Human Rights Act collide.

    While requirements for vaccinations can be included in new employment contracts, the requirement cannot be unilaterally imposed on workers, particularly where the person objects on the basis of health or religious beliefs, and employers cannot discriminate against people who don't wish to be vaccinated. Likewise, any changes to existing conditions of employment require consultation and agreement under the ERA.

    Reading between the lines, I think there is a reasonable argument for conducting a practical and meaningful risk assessment to justify any demands for everyone to be vaccinated.
  • Safety Reset
    A World Cafe style activity with a skilled, independent facilitator could be a good way of going about this. Having someone from outside the business facilitate allows managers and the H&S team to participate as equals. Organise some relevant questions for participants to brainstorm in small groups and get them to mingle for subsequent questions, with time allocated at the end to return to their original group, share what they learned, consolidate, then each group present back to the big group. Collect ideas on poster paper or long rolls of paper during the event, then gather these up at the end to write up as session notes, then distribute to all participants.

    When conducted properly, the World Cafe style event combines all the best elements of small groups, brainstorming, and presenting positive and constructive ideas that can be developed into projects and plans.
  • How much is H&S technical and how much is it about people?
    Just to further stimulate discussion on this thread....H&S covers a lot of ground and a lot of possibilities of specialist technical information. How much should we expect any one generalist safety practitioner to know, and where is the correct place for technical specialists?

    In my own case, I tend to think of my role as being aware of when specialist and more in-depth technical expertise is called for, and to leverage my professional network to get advice and a second opinion where appropriate, rather than trying to figure it all out on my own.
  • How much is H&S technical and how much is it about people?
    The answer is....yes and no!

    I am not much a fan of absolute binaries for describing things, especially when it is clear that most polarities exist on some form of continuum (e.g. MBTI characteristics, situational leadership, etc). Most people will have a "comfort zone" along that continuum, with preferences for a certain aspect that may be more fixed or more flexible - think of it as being a bit like being left-handed, right-handed or ambidextrous; some people can only use one hand and find the other a bit uncoordinated and useless, while others may cheerfully swap from one hand to the other with great ease (I used to watch someone do that on the tennis court to avoid having to hit a backhand shot!).

    I have long contemplated the apparent "disconnect" between the concept of health and safety being about "keeping people safe"....and the actual real-world approach adopted by most traditional organisations, in which the primary focus of safety programmes is prevention of incidents in which assets and / or reputation could be damaged, including legal penalties, and people are still generally (if unconsciously) thought of in terms of their work output than as individuals.

    Safety management itself could benefit from some meaningful root cause analysis to better understand its failings / shortcomings and opportunities to improve.

    The technical requirements, as underscored by both Craig and Derek, are absolutely critical in high hazard workplace environments. And the correct place for these technical skills and competencies is primarily in design, planning, and guidance on risk assessment, communication and training, and supporting development of appropriate management systems.

    The people requirements are absolutely vital for conveying critical safety requirements from the design and planning element of the organisation to implementation and BAU activities. Understanding people and the diversity of their values, needs, capabilities, etc is essential for everything from getting the right people for the work to be done safely (ie recruitment and selection, fit for the organisation and task, etc), developing teamwork and communication networks, and particularly for effective development of worker knowledge and skills.

    Far too often, "training" is a critical failure point because technical experts are tasked with delivering information, precisely because of their technical expertise, but the technical experts lack the people skills and understanding of effective LEARNING processes and neurological factors, resulting in workers who have been "certified" but are NOT actually genuinely competent in functional ways. This also arises because training has not been designed and developed according to effective instructional design principles, including clarity about the appropriate logical levels of competency to be achieved and how these will be assessed - those paper-based assessments are often not worth much more than the paper they are written on.

    There are actually at least 7 types or stages of learning processes, a range of sensory channels and preferences, individual personality types, values world views, and many other individual characteristics and variables, which then also have to consider the context of the organisation's culture and values, the industry in which the business operates, the actual workplace conditions, etc. These will never be addressed in a "one size fits all" approach, and burying one's head in the sand because of its complexity will only perpetuate the problems. Yes, it is complex, and no, it's not really something you can do once and "put on automatic" - that is why we are still struggling with it!

    To successfully navigate all these individual human factors, a safety practitioner really needs to have a pretty good grasp of the full spectrum, with the ability to responsively "flex" between technical and people skills according to requirements of the current context. This in turn is likely to vary according to a number of other external factors..... I've often suggested that my role is more like being a bridge between the most technical elements and key requirements, and the people who do the work. I make a point of understanding the purpose of safety requirements, use my skills and experience to develop rapport and trust, and figure out what each person needs. I figure out their obstacles and help them to find solutions that work for them, without taking over and creating more barriers and obstacles!

    Ultimately, only an individual can truly keep themselves safe, because I can't be everywhere and I don't have any remote controls for other individuals. All I can do is to help others to become aware, understand, commit and develop constructive mindsets. If I try to impose too much technical requirements without respecting their needs, I will only create resistance and make my job that much harder.
  • How to reduce 'safety clutter'?
    ANY requirement to document something that is not connected to any other part of the system - records that are not reviewed or assessed in any way or that have no clearly defined purpose for advancing safety - ie all those mind-numbing butt-covering tick-box exercises. If you are going to collect information, what are you going to do with it?? That should be decided and organised right from the start.

    I also abhor stand-alone safety requirements that duplicate or overlap significantly with other types of work processes. Why not create integrated systems and tools that work together?

    Another pet peeve is collecting data via forms - especially handwritten documents - in scanned, PDF or Word documents where you can't do anything with the data in the documents - this creates so much extra handling!
  • Covid vaccination - can it be required on H&S grounds?
    Can employers require employees to be vaccinated?
    With today's announcement that a COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in New Zealand, attention will likely soon turn to practical implications. Can employers require employees to be vaccinated?

    This is yet another issue in which New Zealand's employment law is being required to react to, and address, COVID-19 related circumstances. For the reasons set out below, our view is that in most circumstances it will not be lawful for employers to make vaccination compulsory for employees without also contemplating exceptions or carve outs to any compulsion, as appropriate.

    There is no legal issue with an employer strongly encouraging vaccination – including having this occur in-house (if this is possible, given the vaccine roll-out) or during work time. The issue is the extent to which an employer can require employees to be vaccinated, and then take disciplinary action to enforce the obligation. The question is therefore whether requiring an employee to be vaccinated is a 'lawful and reasonable direction'. There are a couple of factors to consider in this assessment.

    First, a vaccination is medical treatment. The New Zealand Bill of Rights Act contains a right to refuse to undergo medical treatment. While the Bill of Rights Act does not apply to private activities (including private sector employment), it is likely to be relevant to the question of lawfulness and reasonableness, including of workplace directions.

    Second, we anticipate employers will seek to justify a mandatory vaccination direction on health and safety grounds. But, New Zealand is Covid-free (or close to it) and the vast majority of workplaces are currently operating normally (or close to it) without vaccination. As such, for most workplaces the vaccination status of one individual is unlikely to make a material difference to health and safety – at least in our current environment. On this basis, it may not be reasonable to direct an employee to be vaccinated over their own personal objections (even if there are situations where such objections may not be reasonably held). This will depend on the nature of the work performed by the individual (eg it may be reasonable in some roles, such as health or aged care workers).

    Third, the Human Rights Act prohibits discrimination on specified grounds. The specified grounds include "ethical belief". While this has traditionally been interpreted as the lack of a religious belief, it could conceivably capture someone who is anti-vaccination. If so, an employer could not lawfully discriminate on this basis. This is, however, subject to such belief not unreasonably disrupting the employer's activities (although the onus is on the employer to establish that accommodations would amount to unreasonable disruption). Again, that is likely to be dependent on being able to demonstrate that there is a health and safety risk.


    Where does this get us?

    Strong employer support for vaccination is lawful. Making vaccination compulsory for employees may not be lawful unless an employer indicates a willingness to consider exceptions. Exceptions could be targeted at employees who are not able to be vaccinated for physical health reasons, but could also consider the circumstances of anyone who has a philosophical objection.

    People who decline to be vaccinated could be required to work from home (if possible, under employment agreements and given the nature of the relevant role). Again – this will likely depend on the particular circumstances of the workplace.

    From Russell McVeagh:[url=http:// https://www.russellmcveagh.com/insights/february-2021/can-employers-require-employees-to-be-vaccinated ] https://www.russellmcveagh.com/insights/february-2021/can-employers-require-employees-to-be-vaccinated[/url]
  • Ongoing development
    There is a growing realisation that technical skills are not enough to be effective in H&S management today. Many practitioners are starting to realise this and have been pursuing skills and training in leadership, strategy, business and management tools, communication, coaching and facilitation, relationship-building, values and culture, etc. The old way of implementing safety from a compliance perspective doesn't work (never did, really, but it has taken quite some time to recognise this!).

    In today's context, safety practitioners need to be able to build relationships, communicate effectively and influence behaviours. In addition, to gain the respect and trust of business leaders, they need a sound grasp of business principles and commercial savvy - if you can't speak their language and don't understand their drivers and priorities, getting safety initiatives across the line will be a perpetual struggle.

    In addition to the "mainstream" safety courses like NEBOSH, ICAM, auditing, etc, I followed an interesting path into neuroscience and the dynamics of human diversity, including motivation, communication and learning. The insights into what makes people tick really enriched the work I was doing and gave me the tools and resilience to work with diverse individuals, as well as being able to take a constructive and supportive leadership role in times of crisis - COVID-19 was my 3rd time of facilitating an organisation through major crisis and change, and after the COVID-19 crisis peaked, my contract was extended to support integration following an acquisition and merger. I continue to explore and learn, and by understanding what the drivers are underneath the surface - asking questions and drawing from a vast collection of knowledge, skills and experience, and getting clear about the WHY of things - allows me to contribute more effectively and to support finding solutions that work well for the entire organisation.

    My over-arching strategy is to clearly define what the issues REALLY are, then set about organising and implementing solutions. Sometimes it's just a matter of finding out what a person's obstacles are and helping to deal with them. But always supporting people to 'own' their own responsibilities, rather than taking over it. Sometimes that means taking steps alongside them and supporting until they understand and are confident enough to do it themselves.

    So just as important is to work on yourself - understand your own strengths and weaknesses, what you like or don't like, who you are and who you are not. A really good tool for getting insights into yourself (and even your own unconsciousness) is the AVI Values Inventory - a brilliantly simple set of questions that is analyzed by a computer to give you insights into how you operate. I especially like this tool because it recognises that our behaviours are directly linked to our priorities, which may change depending on our circumstances - we can grow as our fundamental needs are met, but if something comes along to threaten our foundations, we can find ourselves regressing and under pressure. (Personally, I think this tool could also be developed into a useful tool for assessing a number of organisational concerns, including values alignment and organisational well-being and resilience!). You can find out more about AVI here: www.minessence.net - and I am also always happy to discuss further if anyone is interested to know more!
  • Covid vaccination - can it be required on H&S grounds?
    This will be an interesting topic to follow. At the moment, there is (understandably) quite a lot of concern around exposure and transmission, but decisions should be made based on appropriate risk assessments, not assumptions and not on "broad brush" approaches that seek to just make the issue go away.

    What's the current position on regular flu vaccinations? Although many employers offer them to employees, I don't think they are being made mandatory, unless they were included in employment contracts.

    There are still so many unknowns about short-term and long-term effects (as well as a scary amount of misinformation!), and as Robyn commented above, overseas experiences also highlight associated risks such as vaccination side-effects, Covid-19 infections, and "long Covid" ongoing effects. The health and wellbeing of individual workers needs to be given due genuine and appropriate consideration by way of meaningful risk assessments, not just commercial reasons, and employees' views should be included and taken into account.

    Perhaps - especially at this early stage with so many unknowns - employees should be given relevant information and the opportunity to make an informed decision about their own health and wellbeing. Companies already give workers opportunities to make informed decisions whether or not to participate in workplace health surveillance checks, to opt out if they prefer. Shouldn't this work in a similar way?

    In addition, Employment Relations legislation may collide here with employee health intentions. From what I have seen so far, an employer that wants to implement mandatory vaccination cannot do so without proper consultation as required by ER Act, and company management systems such as employment contracts, policies, processes, etc would need to be updated to reflect these expectations for existing or subsequent employment agreements.
  • Effective sign - Speed limit
    This could work well if they were moved around occasionally at random intervals, and perhaps changed up a bit each time.
  • Rebecca Macfie on Pike River, ten years on
    As for comparison with other countries, YES - a family friend who lives in Germany lost his son in a workplace accident (their daughter was traveling here in NZ at the time of the incident, and my partner and I found ourselves looking after her and providing comfort and support as she organised to fly back to Germany to be at his bedside). It was heartbreaking to hear their story - a "reputable" and relatively high-profile German company that had little to no workplace safety management systems to provide training, safe systems of work, or many of the most basic safety measures we would pretty much take for granted here in NZ. Our friend's son, who was barely 21 at the time, just happened to be standing where an unsecured load of 80x 50kg metal plates slid off a forklift as the driver was rounding a corner, slamming unexpectedly into the young man's shins and slamming him backward onto the ground, his head brutally slammed into the ground with such force that he sustained a brain injury so severe that he never regained consciousness before his distraught parents made the heart-breaking decision to take him off life support. The company avoided making contact with the family or the young man's partner, essentially avoiding any engagement and there was certainly no apology. The unfortunate forklift driver who had only been trying to help was given a token fine and will have to live with this for the rest of his life, although the bereaved parents have assured him they don't hold the driver to blame. The parents have recognised that the employer had neglected its duty to its workers, and unfortunately, the German government and its regulatory agencies seem to have little inclination to hold companies or their executives appropriately accountable. The parents have now become activists, reaching out to other parents similarly bereaved due to workplace safety failings to bring greater awareness and employer accountability. It was only after intensive and sustained pressure from the parents that the regulatory body even went as far as to agree to conduct a proper investigation, although as far as I can see this has still not happened some 3-4 years later. The parents told us the regulatory body in Germany still has no "teeth" to bring any consequences to bear upon an employer; they can only inform or recommend changes. That's pretty pathetic and ineffective - little more than lip service.

    As a side note. the government payout for the workplace death was not even enough to pay for the funeral costs, and the employer shunned the family completely - no communication with parents or partner, and no offers to help.

    Remember - this was in Germany, which is often held up as a leading light in the industrialised world.
  • Rebecca Macfie on Pike River, ten years on
    Yes - how ironic, and how futile, to seek unthinking obedience while at the same time aiming to promote greater engagement and individual accountability. Doh!!
  • Challenge to the 'I have the answers' approach
    Yes - I have just been reflecting on this very issue. There is an element of "the chicken vs the egg" here.

    Sometimes the issue arises from a safety practitioner who comes onto the scene with an agenda to establish themselves as an 'expert' with all the answers. They have completed the same regimented safety training and qualifications, which has taught them a linear approach to safety matters, their heads crammed with a set of indoctrinated rules and frameworks but lacking insights into the dynamics behind them or the wisdom to be resilient and responsive.

    It's quite ironic that so many employers place such priority on people holding particular safety qualifications, but then many of the hiring managers have not themselves delved more deeply into understanding their own needs, and because many crave CERTAINTY most of all, they will choose to work with the safety practitioner who comes across as most certain, who may not necessarily know how to tailor their approach or adapt to conditions.

    It also occurs to me that while many safety practitioners bemoan the lack of engagement of managers and workers, feeling that this justifies stepping into the breach themselves to make sure it gets done, are actually as much a part of the problem.

    When we take over the process, we have just allowed those managers to disengage and slip out of what should be their own accountability, so why are they so surprised when the whole H&S system and activities fall back into their own lap?

    How different might things be if safety practitioners were taught more about leadership and coached in more depth of understanding of the purpose and intent of safety requirements, instead of so much focus on being able to memorise and regurgitate key technical information - most of which can easily be found on the internet anyway. What would those conversations sound like if safety practitioners would be coached to enhance emotional intelligence and facilitation skills, to be more genuinely curious and interested in all the dynamics of interacting with others, to identify and address more of their own limiting beliefs, assumptions, values, biases, etc?

    As Einstein is often quoted, "The problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." "The definition of insanity is to keep doing the same things and expecting a different result." Other relevant quotes - not sure of all the sources - "For things to change, first I must change." "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

    Let's stretch our thinking. As long as safety practitioners - for whatever reason - keep jumping in and taking over, the same cyclic arguments will continue to frustrate everyone, and people will continue to be injured at work.
  • Training ideas | templates | etc.
    I have emailed you.....thank you.
  • LTI severity rating
    It doesn't help that many organisations (of all sizes and types of industry) and even many safety managers / advisors / consultants still haven't properly come to terms with concepts (and distinctions) of hazard, risk, likelihood, severity, control, and effective risk management processes. Then they will be able to effectively identify critical risks and relevant management protocols for those risks. I have seen too many risk registers from said safety managers / advisors / consultants that lack sufficient detail and clarity for them to be useful as risk management tools.

    Once the risk registers have been appropriately created - including consultation with relevant workers and use of tools such as Bow Tie Risk Assessment, even tailoring HACCP protocols for each context - Critical Risks can be prioritised, and effectiveness of control of these could be monitored using information such as tracking and reporting use of key designated controls - ie the monitoring piece that should accompany the controls. It would be quite an undertaking to set up, but once in place could provide valuable insights to officers of the company to conduct due diligence without getting dragged down into the details.

    I can kind of visualise how it could work - hard to explain in a few paragraphs, but I am sure it would work if the system was designed appropriately, and it would focus much more on leading indicators than lag indicators.
  • Who influenced you?
    I was also working with a Goodman Fielder company when Terry Johnson - along with his manager, based in Australia - rolled out "Safety the Goodman Fielder Way". Terry is a great example of someone with fundamental technical expertise, practical experience, and exceptional communication and leadership skills - very inspiring.
  • Occupational health nurses
    I have also seen some excellent OHNs who filled the gap left when workplaces no longer had someone in the role of chaplain. The OHN was trusted sounding board who could do things like encourage use of EAP services and direct someone having difficulties to get some help and get things resolved. I am certain the OHN also headed off a number of injury claims by organising early intervention strategies, as well as scolding the person who was not taking the required actions to support healing when they were experiencing OOS. I am thinking of one in particular who was exceptional.