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The Importance of Trust: Building an Adaptable Health & Safety Management System

In previous blogs from Verus, we have discussed the process of bringing our workers back into our pre COVID workplaces and how risk management and planning are paramount, as well as confirming that workplace conditions are safe for our workers to return to. We have discussed the importance of assessing our monitoring programs and ensuring such programs reflect the changes to workplace conditions both at home and at work.

With our everchanging environment there is an enhanced appreciation that a robust risk management framework will surely underpin all safety decisions moving forward. We know that for most workplaces, the risk profile will need reviewing and, as outlined in ISO45001, having a greater understanding of the context of the organisation will certainly benefit. We know that safety management systems will need to evolve to mitigate the current and foreseeable risks to the business. Change management processes will become familiar territory as many of us will work with change every day. With it will come simplified and more efficient ways to process change. This new environment means we have to trust our workers, as we realise we can’t be watching them all the time and, more importantly, with change happening all the time, we can’t prescribe the controls and procedures for every risk they may encounter in their work.

There is a real likelihood some elements of our safety system will be made redundant. 

I see this as an opportunity rather than a burden. Its an opportunity to re-balance your system. If we can get the fundamentals working really well, for example our training and competency programs for workers and supervisors, we can rely on people's expertise and insight to support normal work as its done. If we can fine tune our application of risk and change management, of course always considering the hierarchy of control. However, when it comes to administrative controls, we should have the competency to know what is a hard and fast, black and white rule and the situations where more flexibility is possible. The recent Body of Knowledge publication on Rules and Procedures mentions defining our “Hard Boundaries” for safety and those opportunities to deviate from the rules/procedures should the work situation require it and it is safe to do so. A healthy consultative framework that engages the right people in discussions around procedures will be imperative to ensuring effective implementation of the process.

Yes, we need procedures, yes we need rules and they need to be simple and clear to the end user, however more than ever a balanced and adaptive safety system is required. If we move too far one way or the other in our system, i.e. no defined or hard boundaries or too many prescriptive rules, we will erode the trust that we are trying to instil in our workers, they will lose the independence to make decisions about their work, tasks will be seen as compliance driven with big brother checking our every step. A balanced and adaptable system will only enhance the trust that has started to emerge through these changing times.

If you need guidance or assistance on how to simplify your system, improve your Team’s competency or develop a culture of trust and resilience you can contact Verus via www.verus.com.au.

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