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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters


World view

We posed these questions to well connected H&S people in the UK, Australia, the USA and Canada.

(We also take a look at the forthcoming ISO 45001 standard.)

The United Kingdom

Dr Tim Marsh

The most obvious safety challenge for the UK is to ensure figures that are relatively good remain so despite the march of the neo-liberal agenda and a world shift towards blame and finger-pointing.

Driving fatalities remain in the thousands and “life-changing” injuries in the tens of thousands but the real issue, often largely ignored, are health challenges. The Rushton report makes the conservative estimate of some 13,000 UK people dying this year because of workplace illness. Although we are seeing the end of the classic killers such as miner’s lung and asbestosis, because of the advent of nanotechnologies experts say these figures aren’t going to get better any time soon and could get worse.

In addition, for every person we kill in an industrial accident some 35 working age people will take their own lives. (It’s around 5,000 a year in the UK). We are beginning to address this issue by adopting initiatives such as “Mates in mind” (from Australia I believe) and through “mental health first aid” training that some major organisations are now insisting contractors budget for in their bid process. With an epidemic of self-harm (and similar issues) afflicting our youth because of the intrusive and omnipotent pressure of social media, this is going to get worse rather than better.

Finally, we are not immune to the backlash against behavioural safety, a movement which derived mainly from the USA where BBS programmes have traditionally drawn on behavioural science and do indeed target the person rather than the organisation. Far too many BBS programmes here in the UK are guilty as charged and are some variation on the “if you just tried harder and/or cared more” theme.

A Just Culture approach shows that 90% of root causes tend to be because of lack of training, unsuitable tools, or cultural issues (for example “I want this done safely but by Friday” – meaning by Friday!) Therefore, to maximise efficacy, 90% of our time and effort should be spent analysing and facilitating. It isn’t always.

UK FASHION

I’m not sure fashionable is the right word, as these developments are welcome and important!

There’s a growing awareness of wellbeing as both a threat and a clear win-win opportunity. The structural, cultural and empowerment changes we need to make to create a culture within which people thrive apply to all issues, including the bottom line as this means retaining the best staff, reduced absenteeism and presenteeism, and greater discretionary effort.

At a more practical level, the IOSH and Acre frameworks models are attracting a lot of attention. In particular they are highlighting the fact that that far too many H&S professionals are technically competent but weaker in the area of influencing and soft skills.

The concept of “Safety Two” (from Hollnagel) and the related “safety differently” movement (see the book by Sidney Dekker) are increasingly discussed. These stress that people are the solution, not the problem. Many people who have been busy applying practical methodologies that flow from a Just Culture perspective are saying this isn’t really new, but nevertheless we still have far too many companies that think Reason is a cognitive tool, Dekker a singer from the sixties, and Hollnagel the Norwegian goalkeeper.

LESSONS FROM THE UK

What’s been striking is that despite the government commissioning reports that are clearly supposed to conclude that safety is too bureaucratic and onerous for business, the reports keep saying that overall, the risk-based approach inspired by the UK’s HSW Act 1974 is robust, proportional and effective. Right-leaning political ideology (at least partly) stymied by objective analysis and integrity!

Mathew Syed’s book  Black Box Thinking published in 2016 is, I’d argue, the best safety book of the past few decades and should be read by every safety professional. It contrasts aviation’s commitment to learning with that of the medical world in a very accessible way. His earlier book Bounce is, though he doesn’t know it, a perfect explanation as to why Heinrich’s principle is so profound and generalisable. (Not the much-debated predictive validity of the data – the principle).

WHAT OF THE FUTURE?

Nothing could be more important than to see Steve Perkins, who heads the British Occupational Health Society, be able to stand up and say that we are making excellent progress with reducing exposure to new health threats.

I’d also like to see Mike Robinson, CEO of the British Safety Council, in a position to say that “the partnership with the Confederation of British Industries (CBI) and/or Institute of Directors to pro-actively address wellbeing issues is proving a huge win-win as expected”.

I’d also like to see a widespread appreciation of the difference between good BBS (based on objective analysis and workforce empowerment) and bad BBS (based on “try harder and care more”).

UK-based Dr Tim Marsh is managing director of Ryder-Marsh Safety Ltd.

Australia

Kelly Lovely

Since it was first legislated in the 1980s the health and safety industry (and its alignment to Australian business) has matured. After a couple of bumpy years H&S people are finally taking to the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) certification process. Looking ahead, I see four key challenges.

1. THE CURRICULUM

The unregulated curriculum for the WHS Diploma qualification is stubborn and continues to be deeply entrenched in the teaching of the “hard” safety sciences (systems, regulations, laws and engineering controls). Practitioners who graduate with this qualification (it’s quick and easy, so there are many graduating annually) seem to drive attitudes and behaviours that are “tough on people and soft on problems”. Unless they have colleagues who “get” modern H&S practices, graduates aren’t being trained in the necessary soft skills of motivation, engagement, communication, collaboration and in the understanding of people, so conflicts arise and good people become disillusioned.

2. LACK OF DIVERSITY

Accurate demographic data on the make-up of Australian H&S people is not available, but 75% of SIA members are male, have years and years of experience in safety and other technical skills (like engineering, law, a trade, and science), are Anglo-Saxon, and are over 30 years old. When an industry is seeking to adapt to modern ways of working, research shows there is a risk when that industry’s members remain homogenous – by gender, ethnicity, age, and ways of thinking. There can be risk of subconscious bias. There is no shortage of talent across the H&S industry, but a key challenge facing Australia is to remove real and perceived roadblocks to diversity in thinking, leadership, expertise, problem solving methods, commerce and behaviour.

3. MENTAL HEALTH INITIATIVES

Across Australian workplaces, lost productivity as a result of mental ill-health cost the economy $10.9 billion and mental health concerns affect 1 in 5 people annually [source: headsup.com.au). While every Australian H&S professional is well aware of this, it remains incredibly challenging to demonstrate the business value of an investment in initiatives to promote mentally healthy workplaces.

4. VISION BEYOND 2017

Since 2013, a movement has started from within the Australian H&S industry that has a vision for safety to be done “differently”. As the preference for behaviour-based safety and Zero Harm wanes, the Safety Differently or Safety II movement is gaining momentum. The movement calls for safety to be innovative, creative, based in learning, and focused around three basic principles: that people are the solution; that safety is the presence of positives; and that safety is an ethical responsibility.

SOME CURRENT TRENDS

Many organisations are taking the opportunity to streamline and strip back their H&S management systems, processes and practices. Why? To ensure they remain efficient, sustainable, and are focused on their true purpose of reducing harm.

At the national level, Safe Work Australia and Comcare continue to provide policy leadership across the H&S sector, but their effectiveness as proactive agents is being considerably reduced by the rapid pace of change of work.

At the same time, Australian H&S people are increasing their commitment to individual certification and CPD programmes. As organisations become increasingly global H&S people are also becoming more supportive of the requirements for Global Capability Frameworks for H&S. The OHS Accreditation Board has won the support of the vast majority of tertiary institutions, which are more widely accepting the OHS Body of Knowledge (BOK) and of structured research and policy.

Developments over the past few years have taught us a number of lessons. My top four follow.

1. CERTIFICATION

In 2015 a formal programme of certification was offered exclusively to members of the SIA. More time is required before the programme can be fully evaluated, but early indicators show that certification provides a global level of assurance that a person has reached a consistent level of competence and capability, and that level is set to be maintained by way of CPD points.

2. HARMONISATION OF WHS LAWS

Leading up to 2011 all Australian states and territories were working toward one approach to H&S laws via one set of consistent, cohesive and structured harmonised law. Progress was made – most jurisdictions strongly supported the harmonisation – but a nationally consistent approach and the removal of patchwork H&S legislation across Australia was not achieved. Catastrophic incidents such as Pike River shows the need for a consistent Australian (and worldwide) approach to H&S law reform.

3. DUE DILIGENCE WORKS

What is a supportive health and safety culture? This is difficult to define and to achieve, but the jurisdictions which have adopted the Model Act – with its due diligence obligations for officers – show an evolution based not on compliance, but on “informedness” and trust. This welcome evolution is based, in part, on officers recognising and acting on their due diligence duties.

4. DESIGNER OBLIGATIONS

Similarly, designers have legal H&S obligations, and there is evidence that Australian designers of structures throughout their lifespan are collaborating with H&S people to create structures which are not only safer but also more energy efficient, cheaper to build, and more inviting to the communities they serve.

THE CHANGES AHEAD

It isn’t always easy working in H&S in Australia. In the past few months I have had colleagues and peers tell me they increasingly feel “stuck” and are finding it hard to articulate positive change and then lead efforts to make it happen.

Looking ahead, I would challenge anyone who feels stuck, because I think the next decade will be an incredibly exciting and intriguing time to be at work in the Australian and (increasingly) the global health & safety industry.

Sydney-based Kelly Lovely consults in H&S and organisational change and is a non-executive director on boards (including the Safety Institute of Australia).

The United States

Tom Cecich

From a regulatory standpoint, a key challenge in reducing workplace injuries and illnesses is an issue of scale. The 2010 census identified that there were 27.9 million small businesses and 18,500 larger businesses with greater than 500 employees. Given that there are about 2000 state and Federal safety and health compliance officers to enforce the Occupational Safety and Health Act, clearly a strategy that focuses solely on inspections cannot alone achieve the stated goals of a safe workplace for all Americans.

Another significant regulatory challenge is the development and implementation of new and updated safety and health regulations. The process to develop new standards has a number of provisions mandated by Congress that have the effect of blocking or delaying the adoption of new standards. The average period for a new standard to be developed now exceeds 10 years. Most of the 500 permissible exposure limits for hazardous chemicals were promulgated in 1971 from research conducted in the 1950s and 1960s, meaning the regulatory agencies mostly enforce standards that in many cases reflect decades-old industry practices.

When OSHA was created in 1971 there were a reported 14,000 work related fatalities in the USA. In 2015 about 4300 workers lost their lives. Experts agree that as a result of OSHA many workplace deaths and serious injuries have been prevented.

However an examination of injury data over the last 10 years shows that the rate of serious injuries and fatalities (SIFs) has plateaued, with little overall improvement over the past decade. Why? Mediocre economic conditions will have had an influence, but the regulatory constraints mentioned earlier are also likely to have had some impact.

WHAT’S HAPPENING?

Recent research has identified that the rate of SIFs has declined at a slower rate than total injuries, and in some cases the rate has plateaued. The cause of the rate differential has called into question the accuracy of the Heinrich Triangle that the safety community has accepted since 1931. Research has shown that not all the incident precursors that comprise the bottom of the injury triangle will lead to a serious injury and fatality. This finding has led many large companies to refocus their risk assessment processes on those low probability/high severity injury precursors.

Most companies are also continuing the transition from lagging to leading indicators as measures of safety activity and commitment. Although much has been discussed within the safety community there has not been general agreement on which leading indicators are best predictive of safety outcomes. Definitive research that correlates leading indicators with injury performance would represent a significant advancement in the practice of safety.

It would appear that the behavior-based safety movement is transitioning to bringing more focus on human error performance. This is an emerging area that is only starting to gain traction in larger organisations. Concentrating attention on how all forms of human error impact serious injury precursors may have breakthrough potential to reduce the rate of SIFs.

LESSONS FROM THE USA

Many safety leaders would argue that the practice of safety has made few advances over the past 20 years. The USA used to be a global leader in safety management and technology but the stagnation in legislative and regulatory leadership has resulted in companies relying on voluntary standards and best global practices to improve their safety systems. As a result improvement has been spotty at best.

In the past few years progressive organisations have started to embrace more risk-based systems to identify, assess, mitigate and communicate risk levels. Processes like enterprise risk management have been successful in focusing senior management attention on those risks that can have a material impact on the organisation. Such risk analysis, combined with best practices of risk assessment that have been adopted from some Western European countries, has potential for how safety is managed in the USA. The American Society of Safety Engineers created the Risk Assessment Institute to share best practices, conduct training and generally promote the value of using risk assessment – independent of government regulations – as a means of targeting and eliminating workplace hazards.

CHALLENGES AHEAD

It is critical that organisations see the need to go beyond compliance to achieve the next level of risk and injury reduction. There is little expectation that the government can provide safety and health leadership, given low budgets, small enforcement staffs and regulatory gridlock. Innovative safety practices will be led by professional associations and progressive business coalitions and hopefully facilitated by supportive governmental actions.

While large corporations will likely develop more sophisticated systems to identify and manage risk and embrace human error reduction processes, small business will continue to struggle with basic on-the-ground challenges. A disproportionate percentage of injuries occur in small business and many face serious challenges associated with managing the safety of young, temporary and migrant workers, who present unique risks individually which compound when those worker groups overlap. Businesses, safety professional communities and governments must work together to develop safety systems that can reduce the risk of injuries in these at-risk populations.

The final challenge is perhaps the most difficult. Occupational health issues continue to present great opportunities and challenges. Experts predict that 40,000 workers a year die from occupational disease yet governmental reporting from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not even report on deaths from occupational disease because the official number is so low. There is agreement that problems with latency periods, personal habits and exposure monitoring all contribute, along with the lack of accurate reporting of occupational disease. That must not stop occupational health professionals from doubling down on their efforts to identify and reduce at-risk workers from endangering their long term health.

SUMMARY

Significant progress in workplace protections over the past 50 years has resulted in far fewer Americans being injured and made sick from their work. However in recent years progress has stagnated mainly due to economic and governmental restraints. The lack of progress has occurred under both Democratic and Republican administrations, suggesting that totally new regulatory approaches are required to re-establish leadership in workplace safety.

The incoming Trump administration will clearly be a new experience for Americans. Perhaps as a businessman President Trump will be open to new ideas to protect the workers whose jobs his campaign focused on.

Tom Cecich is president of the American Society of Safety Engineers and principal of TFC & Associates in North Carolina.

Canada

Eldeen Pozniak

The Canadian economy is affecting the health and safety profession. It’s an employer’s market for hiring staff, so employers have a greater opportunity – at least in the short term – to explore greater options. This has prompted practitioners towards a greater uptake in educational opportunities and increased interest in designations as a way to differentiate themselves and be more employable.

The bar for the safety profession is rising in Canada. There is an increased focus on scope, knowledge and skills, increased practicing standards and potential new certifications. There are more conversations around the role of safety and what is the right balance of education and experience.

In the next five years there will be some difficult but interesting conversations to determine the core scope of the OHS profession. As OHS has evolved, it has grown in scope and/or there has been some creep of other activities into our practice. Examples include modified return to work and disability management – does that belong to HR or is it a large enough portfolio now to be on its own? And what about risk management or process safety – is that a part of what we do, or a designated specialty that can only be done by those with a specific designation?

In other parts of the world, and even in different jurisdictions in Canada, you have to have a specific designation to perform specific safety functions or sign off on specific documentation.

The INSHPO framework document will be useful in these discussions as it gives weight – from outside a specific jurisdiction – to what is being done in the global profession.

REGULATING THE PROFESSION

The Board of Canadian Registered Safety Professionals (BCRSP) is having active conversations and has conducted a feasibility study around the regulatory recognition of the OHS profession. Other associations have safety designations and have identified OHS as part of their domains of practice. There has been some whispering that some of these other organisations may look into some type of regulatory recognition or licensing as well.

EDUCATION LEVELS

There is an increasingly global market for expertise and Canadians have to stay in step with advances in practice elsewhere. OHS professionals from countries such as the US, UK, Europe and Australia already have a higher standard of education and experience in place for their professional certification schemes, and Canada is lagging behind. There is a risk that if we do not produce professionals on a par with the rest of the world, there will be opportunities missed in Canada, especially when immigration is a priority for the Canadian government; there will also be opportunities missed for Canadians to work abroad, if Canada is seen as lagging behind.

BEYOND COMPLIANCE

There will be an increasing focus on using knowledge and skills that go beyond compliance-based approaches. These include critical thinking and the soft skills that allow people to communicate, motivate, and influence at multiple levels of an organisation. There is also an increased focus on risk-based critical thinking practice vs compliance-based.

PSYCHOLOGICAL WELLBEING

Psychological aspects of workplace health are something that safety professionals are grappling with. The new CSA standard has influenced programming, but the focus for the next few years will be on how to actually implement and maintain the programmes so that they produce positive outcomes.

VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

There has been an increased focus on violence and harassment within the workplace. Recent legislation in Ontario adds new government powers to order an independent workplace harassment investigation at the employer’s expense. With this has come greater demand for programmes that highlight behaviour which is inappropriate, and have clear steps to investigate and deal with violence, sexual harassment and other threatening behaviour.

LEGALISATION OF MARIJUANA

When this occurs in 2017 it will affect Canadian workplaces. At present there is little detail about what guidance or other tools will be made available to employers, and there is not yet any indication that legislation will allow employers to carry out post incident, reasonable cause, random or other testing.

There will be an increased focus on fit for work programmes. These will need to be supported by policy which covers impairments caused by legal, illegal, prescription and over the counter drugs, plus alcohol and other substances; that outlines education of all workers on being fit for duty and disclosure of medical uses; and which has a proactive component such as EAP and trained supervisors to detect impairment, with confidentiality requirements.

PENALTIES FOR BREACHES

In common law we are starting to see penalties rise and also the use of creative sentencing, such as the case in Alberta where the defendant was sentenced to pay for the development of a new safety course for the Alberta Motor Transportation Association.

Under criminal law we have seen managers and supervisors convicted and receive jail terms for criminal negligence causing death and bodily harm. Individuals can even be charged with culpable homicide, where a death is caused by an unlawful act such as a marked departure from reasonable practice which also contravenes applicable health and safety legislation.

WORKPLACE INSPECTIONS

The definition varies under each Canadian jurisdiction, but all require an employer to ensure the workplace is inspected. In the 2016 case of CUPW vs Canada Post Corporation, the union felt the employer should be inspecting not only the traditional depot facilities but also the field operations. The ruling emphasised that the obligation to inspect applies only to workplaces the employer actually controls, but that there must be measures in place for hazards to be reported even where the employer is not in control. This is under appeal; if overturned and the court rules that all workplaces are to be inspected – no matter how much control and ability to fix the employer has – inspection programmes will vastly change in federally regulated workplaces, and potentially in other jurisdictions.

CULTURAL DIVERSITY

This is increasing in Canada and issues arising include training where English is a second language, cultural differences with risk perception, appropriate communication pathways, and freedom of religion.

Case law suggests that bona fide safety requirements will be upheld even when in conflict with religious beliefs. An example from Quebec is where Montreal Gateway Terminals required truck drivers to wear hard hats when outside vehicles and a Sikh driver sought exemption from the rule. The policy was ruled to be discriminatory but justified because the policy was to comply with legal obligations, had been adopted in good faith, and was reasonably necessary for the work of the drivers.

Eldeen Pozniak CRSP is director of Pozniak Safety Associates based in Saskatchewan. She has served as president of the Canadian Society of Safety Engineers, and is currently president of the International Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organizations (INSHPO).

Standardising best practice

Jackie Brown-Haysom

The global health and safety landscape will undergo a major change next year when a new international standard for health and safety management systems is introduced.

Existing standards such as OHSAS 18001 and ANZI/ASSE Z10 are used around the world, but ISO 45001 will be the first true global consensus standard for H&S management, drawing on existing standards and on research and best practice from throughout the world.

It is designed to be incorporated into business management systems, thus integrating health and safety into organisational goals, objectives and processes in every area of operation, and providing a platform for continual improvement.

It is also being formatted to be closely compatible with ISO 14001 (Environmental Management Systems) and ISO 9001 (Quality Management Systems), to assist with harmonisation of these three areas.

A committee of the International Standards Organisation began work on 45001 more than three years ago at the request of British stakeholders, who were concerned that OHSAS 18001 – developed in 1999 – was becoming out of date, and had more than 40 different versions in use around the world.

Like any ISO standard, development is in the hands of a technical committee, including representatives of industry, NGOs, governments, and other stakeholders nominated by ISO members. All member countries can sign up to be either participants on technical committees (with voting rights), or observers (who can comment but not vote), and the 45001 committee includes 58 participants, 15 observers and 16 members in liaison roles.

New Zealand is represented on 174 technical committees, 55 of them as a participant, but has chosen not to be involved with 45001.

The technical committee devises a draft standard, which is submitted to members for comment and a vote of support. If consensus is reached the draft becomes an ISO standard. If not it goes back to the committee for further edits.

The progress of 45001 has been less than straightforward. The panel developing the first draft missed its initial deadline because it could not achieve the required two-thirds majority to approve the document, and a revised draft, put out for comment in January 2016, narrowly failed to achieve consensus.

Further revisions, based on the 3000 comments received, are now being made, and another draft is expected shortly. This will again be put out for comment, but even if it achieves consensus the standard is unlikely to be completed until March 2018, more than a year later than expected.

Much of its content will closely mirror the HSW Act, including requirements for demonstrated leadership from top management, worker participation and consultation, and strategies to manage health issues – both mental and physical – as well as safety. It will also include two definitions of risk, expand the concept of a worker to include different types of employment relationships, and include operational outsourcing and supply chains within the accountability framework.

Neither WorkSafe NZ nor ACC have expressed interest in endorsing the standard – a process that would involve significant financial investment – and, as part of MBIE, Standards NZ is no longer able to do so. However Australia, as an observer on the technical committee, is likely to adopt it, a situation that could cause complications for some New Zealand businesses, according to HASANZ chair Craig Smith.

“If it isn’t endorsed here and Australia picks it up, then conceivably the existing OHS joint standard, AS/NZS 4801, could be withdrawn or cease to be supported.”

He notes that if a business is working, or looking to work, internationally it may choose to use ISO 45001 as a recognised benchmark, and that NZ operations of multinationals may be required to use ISO 45001 by their parent companies.

Similarly, the Safety Star Ratings scheme currently under development is expected to include its own framework for H&S management, which could create a conflict with 45001, in terminology and documentation requirements if not in intent.

Thomson Reuters

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