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Work Health and Safety Blog

There's so much happening in the world of health & safety. Changes in legislation and requirements, changes in best practice, changes in ... you name it. Here's my take on making it simple. Simply Genius WHS - stop guessing... manage with confidence.

Is your WHS confidence bucket overflowing?

Maralyn Kastel - Sunday, October 07, 2012

Confidence in managing workplace health and safety will go a long way to meeting compliance and we often wonder why regulators put so much emphasis on compliance?’

The confidence bucket
Picture this bucket. It’s full of confidence because you’re effectively managing workplace health & safety. There are few if any accidents, injuries, illnesses or hazards in your workplace.  Everyone contributes to making sure that health and safety is number one in everything that is done in the workplace.

The compliance bucket
Now picture the other bucket.  In this bucket the regulators sit and their emphasis is compliance.  This bucket is full of regulations, codes of practice, standards, guidelines, and legislation.  style= It’s your job to empty the bucket by matching all the compliance requirements with evidence that you comply.

Compliance is simply a means to an end. Not an end in itself.  Compliance makes the assumption that the rules set by the regulators are not just good enough to achieve a safe workplace, but they are the only way!  The minimum standards for compliance don’t always meet industry health & safety methodologies let alone “best practice”.

Regulators want us to tick to the rules.  However, this ignores the fact that even the best regulations and codes of practice have weaknesses.  These then get re-written and updated and enshrined in legislation and that’s when the compliance bucket overflows.

Emptying the compliance bucket
In the rush to try to empty the compliance bucket by matching all the compliance requirements this often becomes the most importance thing in managing health and safety. This takes precedence over establishing or even thinking about what is “best practice” because the only concern is to make sure that the compliance bucket is empty!

No doubt you can think of examples where compliance regulation or codes of practice have fallen behind because of changing technology or improvements in work methods.
Compliance almost always lags behind the latest knowledge and methodologies.

The way we behave
Our natural behaviour is to make the assumption the regulations, standards and codes of practice must be good otherwise why would the regulators want us to comply with them?  This often results in “sheep-like mentality” and we only do what is required to meet compliance.  It stops us from “thinking outside the square”.  It stops us from coming up with creative solutions and it creates a culture of not doing any more than is absolutely necessary.  We manage the compliances in the bucket and nothing more.

Regulators don’t trust the employer to be effective managers of workplace health and safety and to prevent accidents and injuries. If they did they wouldn’t need to put all those compliance requirements in the bucket in the first place.

What we really want
What we really want, what is really important is confidence that we have the safest workplace possible. That the plant we hire, buy or use is safe; that the chemicals won’t harm us; the tools we use are the right ones for the job; the goods and services we use are safe etc and that we can train our workers to work safely for everyone’s sake to maximise safety.  And we can keep improving what we do to reduce the risks.  Now that’s a confidence bucket. Confidence is a real outcome.

So instead of racing to empty the bucket and asking “Have we complied?” let’s work to create a culture where we ask questions and people say “How will this help us be more confident in our safety management?” 

If your confidence bucket is not overflowing – talk to us, we can help

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