By Dr Paul Johnston. Lead Consultant and Facilitator
Safety Dimensions recently had an opportunity to expand our relationship with Ducab [the Dubai Cable Company, a leading manufacturer of cabling], assisting them in enhancing their HSE culture via a Behavioural Based Safety [BBS] program. Already OHSAS18001 certified, Ducab’s intention is to exceed mere compliance with the required standards, and to achieve international “best practice”. Safety Dimensions is excited to be working with them on their health and safety journey.
The challenges faced by Ducab are both physical and cultural in nature. Physically, the average temperature in summer of 40°C+, is compounded not only by levels of humidity in excess of 60%, but also by the presence of aluminium and copper furnaces on site. Culturally, the workforce is as diverse as the wider Dubai population, with most originating from highly hierarchical societies that are characterised by a significant “power distance” in relationships.
Power distance is a term that describes how people belonging to a specific cultural group view power relationships between people, including the degree to which people not in “power positions” perceive and/or accept that power is spread unequally.
Although the cultural backgrounds of Ducab’s workforce do indeed constitute a challenge in establishing, implementing and maintaining an effective BBS program, the same also provide a solid foundation on which to build. Whilst this may seem somewhat paradoxical, although the sense of power distance is significant, so is the importance of “team” and “community” to the workforce – this is the strength that has already contributed to Ducab’s success, and this is the strength on which the roll-out of the BBS program is being based. Indeed the Australian mindset of “looking after your mates” is a reasonable comparison. The main difference, however, is the perceptions associated with hierarchical relationships, and the manner of communication that is associated with it. (Continued below)
The way forward
In moving forward with Ducab, the intention is to build on their success and cultural strengths, extending their sense of “team” to create a greater sense of “permission” to have safety conversations with others, regardless of rank and title.
Will this be easy?….No.
Is it achievable?….Yes.
One of the key reasons for these answers is what we saw during our 3 weeks with Ducab. During this time, site visits and interviews were conducted, and 3 two day Safety Leadership workshops were facilitated, as was a one day Executive Masterclass. Throughout these activities, two themes remained constant – the intent to work diligently for the good of the company, and the willingness to have open discussions in what were considered to be appropriate settings. The goal is to extend this so that all of Ducab is seen as an appropriate setting for such interaction. This goal, although challenging, is one that I believe Ducab can achieve – with this being based on the level of commitment and willingness to learn that was witnessed of both management and front-line operators alike during our time there.
Indeed, the current pace of development in Dubai, both in terms of commercial operations and infrastructure development, is remarkable – with this being reflected in the collective willingness to establish long term partnerships and to strive for international best practice.
With this in mind, we are looking forward to our next trip to Dubai, scheduled for early next year, and to see what the future in the region brings.
What did we learn ?
From our initial site visits, interviews, the subsequent Masterclass, through collaboration we all learned more about Ducab, the challenges they face and how we can move Safety forward in a tangible way. The experience can best be summarised in the statement “Limitations are what we put in the way, not what are actually there”. Ducab’s willingness to understand, challenge themselves and to apply a different approach to safety was quite evident, and it something that companies both internationally and locally could learn a lot from.
Our International Advantage
Safety Dimensions has instructionally designed and/or delivered behavioural safety leadership and similar programs in 20 countries.
With the new OHS Regulations 2017 already in force, the compliance codes that align with the regulations are now under review. In consultation with stakeholders, WorkSafe has updated the codes, and eight proposed codes are available for public comment from Monday 1 May to Friday 9 June. Find out more about public comment on the compliance codes.
The new OHS Regulations 2017 are mainly the same. However, if you are in a workplace where asbestos is present; are a manufacturer or an importing supplier of hazardous substances or agricultural and veterinary chemicals; work in construction; or operate a mine or major hazard facility, you need to become aware of the changes. In most cases, compliance is required by 18 June 2017.
Most importantly, the new OHS Regulations 2017 maintain Victoria’s already high safety standards. In some high risk areas, like asbestos removal work, they improve standards. The changes also deliver significant savings to Victorian businesses in the areas of high risk work licensing and record keeping for designers and manufacturers of plant.
For some changes, transitional arrangements apply to allow duty and licence holders time to become compliant with the updated regulatory requirements.
If you are affected by the changes, WorkSafe Victoria has prepared a range of information and support resources to help you identify what to do to stay compliant when the changes take effect on 18 June 2017, contact the email address below.
The Regulations have been renumbered with consecutive numbers, in line with the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel’s guidance on the preparation of statutory rules. Reconciliation tables are available through the links below to help you quickly compare the numbering between the 2007 Regulations and the 2017 Regulations.
Feedback and engagement from our stakeholders has played a vital part in making sure the OHS Regulations 2017 and EPS Regulations 2017 are streamlined and modernised to better reflect current Victorian work practices.
In 2016 the proposed new OHS and EPS Regulations 2017 were made available for public comment and 61 submissions were received. WorkSafe considered and responded to all submissions before finalising the Regulations.
All of the submissions, including WorkSafe’s response, are available in the ‘Proposed Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017 and Equipment (Public Safety) Regulations 2017 – Response to public comment’ through the link below.
The disaster at Grenfell Tower has been described by David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham, as a case of “corporate manslaughter”. According to English law, companies and organisations can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious management failures, resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.
Amid calls for arrests, it’s time to consider whether the failings that led to the Grenfell disaster could possibly justify the use of the label “corporate manslaughter” – and what this would mean for victims who seek justice.
Prosecutions for this offence are of a corporate body (defined broadly enough to include public authorities) and not individuals – so we probably won’t see any pictures of executives being led away in handcuffs. That said, directors, board members and others may still be liable to prosecution under health and safety law or general criminal law. The offence also covers contractors and sub-contractors, so long as they owe a duty of care to the victims.
A duty of care is an obligation, whereby an organisation must take reasonable steps to protect a person’s safety. Legally, it is broadly understood as avoiding negligence by not placing people in danger. These duties also exist in relation to workplaces and equipment, as well as to products or services supplied to customers. This suggests that when an entity exercises control over people and spaces it has a responsibility to protect them.
The corporate manslaughter offence uses the same definitions of duty of care as the common law offence of gross negligence manslaughter. This means that the threshold for the offence is high – the way that activities were managed or organised must have fallen seriously far below reasonable standards.
Any organisation convicted of this offence would face a fine of anywhere between £180,000 and £20m (though there is no hard maximum limit). They would also be handed a publicity order, which requires them to publicise the conviction, along with certain details of the offence, as specified by the court. The court can also set a remedial order, requiring the organisation to address the cause of the fatal injury, which in this case could have consequences for similar tower blocks.
While there is no direct precedent for this kind of tragedy – involving massive loss of life for non-workers – to help us estimate penalties, some indications can be gleaned from the fines imposed on rail operators for train accidents. In 2003, Thames Trains and Network Rail were fined over £2m and £4m respectively, in relation to the health and safety breaches that led to the 1999 Ladbroke Grove train crash, which killed 31 people. And in 2006, Network Rail was fined £3.5m and Balfour Beatty an eventual £7.5m (following an appeal) for faults leading to the fatal derailment of a train near Hatfield in 2000.
It’s also possible for an organisation to be charged with both corporate manslaughter and health and safety offences in the same proceedings. In these circumstances, if an organisation is convicted of corporate manslaughter the jury may still be asked to return a verdict on the health and safety charges if the interests of justice so require, which can have further consequences for individuals.
Corporate manslaughter is an extremely serious offence, reserved for the very worst cases of corporate mismanagement leading to death. Even before knowing the full extent of the Grenfell disaster, it’s safe to say that it is likely to fall in this category.
Potential defendants in this case – should one eventually be brought – would probably include the building’s management company, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), and possibly also contractors involved in the tower’s recent renovation.
But advocates for the victims are likely to be looking further than that, seeking to challenge the behaviour of public authorities and political decisions about spending on improvements to social housing in London. Prosecutions of public authorities would have far-reaching political consequences.
If the defendant is a public authority, exemptions may apply to decisions about public policy. For example, strategic funding decisions and other matters involving competing public interests, cannot be challenged in criminal proceedings. But decisions about how resources were managed are not exempt, which means that deliberate under-investment in maintaining safety could lead to prosecutions.
According to the law, the offence is concerned with how an organisation’s activities were managed or organised. So, courts will look at management systems and practices across the organisation in question, and investigate whether an adequate standard of care was applied. A substantial part of the failing must have occurred at a senior management level for a conviction to be successful.
Juries would be required to consider the extent to which an organisation was in breach of health and safety requirements, and assess how serious those failings were. They would also consider wider cultural issues within the organisation, such as attitudes or practices that tolerated health and safety breaches. What’s more, it would not be necessary for the management failure to have been the sole cause of death, so a tenant’s actions in starting this fire would not exonerate those responsible for inadequate safety measures.
For now, London is in mourning. But when the immediate phase has passed, the law will turn its attention to those who may be responsible, and see that justice is carried out.
It is often said that our approach to health and safety has gone mad. But the truth is that it needs to go scientific. Managing risk is ultimately linked to questions of engineering and economics. Can something be made safer? How much will that safety cost? Is it worth that cost?
Decisions under uncertainty can be explained using utility, a concept introduced by Swiss mathematician Daniel Bernoulli 300 years ago, to measure the amount of reward received by an individual. But the element of risk will still be there. And where there is risk, there is risk aversion.
Risk aversion itself is a complex phenomenon, as illustrated by psychologist John W. Atkinson’s 1950s experiment, in which five-year-old children played a game of throwing wooden hoops around pegs, with rewards based on successful throws and the varying distances the children chose to stand from the pegs.
The risk-confident stood a challenging but realistic distance away, but the risk averse children fell into two camps. Either they stood so close to the peg that success was almost guaranteed or, more perplexingly, positioned themselves so far away that failure was almost certain. Thus some risk averse children were choosing to increase, not decrease, their chance of failure.
So clearly high aversion to risk can induce some strange effects. These might be unsafe in the real world, as testified by author Robert Kelsey, who said that during his time as a City trader, “bad fear” in the financial world led to either “paralysis… or nonsensical leaps”. Utility theory predicts a similar effect, akin to panic, in a large organisation if the decision maker’s aversion to risk gets too high. At some point it is not possible to distinguish the benefits of implementing a protection system from those of doing nothing at all.
So when it comes to human lives, how much money should we spend on making them safe? Some people prefer not to think about the question, but those responsible for industrial safety or health services do not have that luxury. They have to ask themselves the question: what benefit is conferred when a safety measure “saves” a person’s life?
The answer is that the saved person is simply left to pursue their life as normal, so the actual benefit is the restoration of that person’s future existence. Since we cannot know how long any particular person is going to live, we do the next best thing and use measured historical averages, as published annually by the Office of National Statistics. The gain in life expectancy that the safety measure brings about can be weighed against the cost of that safety measure using the Judgement value, which mediates the balance using risk-aversion.
The Judgement (J) value is the ratio of the actual expenditure to the maximum reasonable expenditure. A J-value of two suggests that twice as much is being spent as is reasonably justified, while a J-value of 0.5 implies that safety spend could be doubled and still be acceptable. It is a ratio that throws some past safety decisions into sharp relief.
For example, a few years ago energy firm BNFL authorised a nuclear clean-up plant with a J-value of over 100, while at roughly the same time the medical quango NICE was asked to review the economic case for three breast cancer drugs found to have J-values of less than 0.05.
Risky business. Shutterstock
The Government of the time seemed happy to sanction spending on a plant that might just prevent a cancer, but wanted to think long and hard about helping many women actually suffering from the disease. A new and objective science of safety is clearly needed to provide the level playing field that has so far proved elusive.
Putting a price on life
Current safety methods are based on the “value of a prevented fatality” or VPF. It is the maximum amount of money considered reasonable to pay for a safety measure that will reduce by one the expected number of preventable premature deaths in a large population. In 2010, that value was calculated at £1.65m.
This figure simplistically applies equally to a 20-year-old and a 90-year-old, and is in widespread use in the road, rail, nuclear and chemical industries. Some (myself included) argue that the method used to reach this figure is fundamentally flawed.
In the modern industrial world, however, we are all exposed to dangers at work and at home, on the move and at rest. We need to feel safe, and this comes at a cost. The problems and confusions associated with current methods reinforce the urgent need to develop a new science of safety. Not to do so would be too much of a risk.
This Safe Work Australia film features three different perspectives on how workplace leaders can design good work and influence their safety culture, not only in their own business, but across their supply chain and the broader community. This seminar features three business leaders from Australian Country Choice, Lend Lease and Toll NQX.
Leaders at all levels have a critical role to play in building a positive safe work culture, influencing safety improvements, and designing safe, healthy and productive work.
For many workplace leaders, the safety vision they are still working towards is focused on achieving an absence of injury. But there is so much more to be gained through creating a strong safety culture, including enhanced worker health and wellbeing and increased business success and productivity.
Who is this presentation for?
Regulators, industry representatives, worker representatives and leaders at all levels – from officers and CEOs to middle management and those with work health and safety or human resource functions.
Dr Simon Blackwood, Deputy Director General at the Department of Justice and Attorney General with the Queensland Government.
Jennie Hunter, Manager of Leadership and Culture with Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.