Is there too much trust in safety?

How do you know?

Working with Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) is an opportunity to test what I know. Business is great, I find I learn something new every day.

After more than 20 years of managing safety, with some of Australia’s most successful and iconic brands, I find that many of the issues experienced by a SME are also the same. Upon review here is my short list of questions after issues are identified:

  • Who checks on what and how often?
  • How do we ensure our legal obligations are met?
  • How much detail is too much detail?
  • Do we need to tell the government?
  • Is there a standard or code we need to follow?
  • What qualifications and skills do we need?
  • Do we need to get that registered?
  • What do we do with data?

As a Director or Officer of a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) do you know what you need to do when it comes to your duty of care?

In many organisations the senior executive responsible for safety often comes from a non-safety background. This is generally an accepted practice, however what method of governance ensures that the relationship between the Officer and the manager is maintaining a suitable balance between trust and diligence.

Executives are no different from any other person. They have limitations, priorities, good and bad days. Being responsible for an area outside their experience takes skill, time and effort and sometimes one or more of these aspects can be in short supply. As an Officer of the PCBU how do you know that the critical personal obligations that you have are being met by someone else?

If you are a finance, marketing or operational executive now sitting on a board, there is no doubt that you can ask the right question when it comes to your area of expertise; but can you do the same for safety? Do you ask questions based on another workplace you may have experience with, or do you only ask questions about what is put in front of you at the time?

Relying on the experience that you have gained does not prepare you for the new and emerging challenges that you face in the current role. If you rely on the people within the business who built the framework and system to report on the framework and system, then something may be missing. Is trust enough to close this gap?

Always remember that the people who develop a system cannot be objective when reviewing their own system.

Take a simple step and seek out an external review. Best if it is at the request of the CEO or Board Committee to ensure a suitable scope and to limit any potential or perceived bias or conflict of interest. 

Acknowledging that we are all human and sometimes we need to seek independent objective advice is great Leadership. A positive outcome from an independent objective review inspires Confidence. The identification of a gap demonstrates Diligence. 

Read more about the Author of this article here.

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Apr 07, 2022