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Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard OSH Solutions - Thomson Reuters

Safeguard Magazine

Community—Reader feedback


Congratulations to Peter Coveney from Auckland, who was randomly drawn from the people who provided the feedback on this page. He wins a copy of the Health & Safety Handbook 2018, published in NZ by Thomson Reuters.

Q: Looking beyond seeing patients, how could occupational physicians best be involved in the strategic management of risks to workers’ health?

If the system were better constructed, ideally a notifiable disease register would be managed by a team of occupational physicians to interpret data submitted by workers, OHNs, GPs and other occupational physicians to derive cause and effect, to inform research and provide best practice and good management guidelines.

Strategic management of health risk requires a multi-disciplinary approach that includes occupational physicians, occupational hygienists and OHNs.

They probably need to be more proactive and market themselves. I was unaware of what they could offer until I read the article.

Q: Steph Dyhrberg says H&S practitioners need to acknowledge sexual harassment and bullying as legitimate workplace hazards to be dealt with. Do you agree?

I agree. I have worked in Wellington for 12 years and in seven roles I have encountered bullies in all of them – mostly leadership. I hear about bullying at work all the time. Mainly managers with the power and nobody to go to. So people just leave and it continues.

Agree, far too much of this happens when you are a female in the safety world that has traditionally been a male bastion. Like other hazards, elimination is the first call in control!

The problem is that once the sexual harassment or bullying has been reported what safe place is there for the complainant? The internal investigation needs to take place, and the person who has been victimised still needs to go to work as they have bills to pay. It is one thing having the processes in place, but in practice they need to be trialled to determine if they are fit for purpose.

This is a cultural issue in the workplace, not H&S. This is the lazy way of sending everything under the H&S banner to get action, without really looking at the reason behind it happening and having a robust HR system in place.

I work for a large organisation that has decided to confront the issue of sexual harassment. From the top down it has been made clear that sexual harassment will not be tolerated be the victim be female, male or transgender. All personnel are aware of how they can report harassment. As a health & safety rep I take the health part just as seriously as the safety part. Physical health and mental health is important for my organisation to perform at its best. Someone who is a victim of harassment of any type is not able to perform properly while trying to address these issues. In the past, perpetrators might have freely victimised fellow employees but now they would have to be very bold to go down that path.

Q: Nadine McDonnell argues that a safety culture can be regarded as healthy only if there is evidence of disagreements between workers and management over H&S and how these disputes have been resolved. How does this match with your experience?

I agree. Culture is the symbols, beliefs and behaviours displayed by the leaders in the business that are absorbed by all levels of the structure by gravity/osmosis. A dynamic culture is one which fosters a practice of safe challenge, so sometimes tense but progressive discussions can be had at all and between all levels of the business.

If there is evidence that workers raise H&S issues with management, that management responds to those concerns, and that outcomes are reached that are satisfactory for all – I’d say that is one indication of a healthy culture.

The organisation must genuinely empower all workers to speak up about H&S matters without fear of reprisal, listen to those concerns with genuine interest and concern, and work collaboratively with the relevant workers to find appropriate solutions.

Nadine is right, the test is when we don’t agree, how we handle conflict and how much do workers get a say in work processes and new technology. Often managers set rules and make examples of workers when they don’t comply. Unjust disciplining around H&S creates a culture of fear and intimidation. A company with a good safety culture should be open to be challenged by the people who know where it hurts.

It should be based on total interaction, actions with involvement, outcomes of engagement and resolution actions taken. To single out disagreements is not an indication of a good culture.

In large organisations if there is a dispute between workers and management the worker is “performance-managed”. HR normally represents management, and if possible the worker would need to get union representation. As a H&S practitioner I would normally represent the worker as there is an inherent distrust among workers once HR becomes involved.

No, I have worked in companies where the original goal was agreed upon and met by both workers and management, this leads to what I would call a true just culture.

Feedback opportunity!

Here are some questions arising from this issue. Send your brief feedback by 8 November to the editor, and go in the draw to win a copy of the Health & Safety Handbook 2018, published by Thomson Reuters.

Q:Wellington City Council’s strategy places staff health and wellbeing at the centre of everything it does. Is this the way forward for organisations wishing to replace a compliance approach to H&S with an approach based on care?
Q:The announcement that Daniel Hummerdal will join WorkSafe NZ in an innovation role prompted applause at the HASANZ conference. How could the regulator make best use of this new role?
Q:Peta Miller and Rebecca Michalak say the primary effort should go into designing psychosocially healthy work environments rather than trying to boost psychological “resilience” in individuals. Do you agree?

Thomson Reuters

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