Much progress has been made in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in Australian workplaces over the past ten years or so. Legislation requiring all employers and employees to manage OHS risks is now well established and much work has been done in most companies to comply with the law.
In industries such as mining organisations have OHS Management Plans and all the associated paperwork including policies and procedures - most importantly Safe Work Procedures (SWPs). These SWPs detail what an employee should do in order to carry out any task successfully and safely.
However, there has been some disquiet over the last year or so about problems related to the behaviour of workers in the workplace leading to errors and sometimes accidents or even catastrophes, despite the presence of SWPs, training and other reinforcements. Some in the mining industry are referring to this as the ‘disconnect’ - the gap between the formal procedures and what actually happens on the job. It is a problem of implementation rather than a lack of information or resolve.
Most OHS professionals agree that there is sufficient information now available to control most workplace health and safety risks to an acceptable degree. Therefore we do not need more information or more regulation, we need monitoring and evaluation to allow for fine-tuning a system that is in place.
Good OHS performance needs to be checked, reinforced and modified where it is found wanting. Although many companies review their performance through regular system audits and monitor lagging injury statistics, reviewing and monitoring of performance at the shop floor is inadequate with management and supervisors relying largely on anecdotal information regarding the implementation and utilisation of the systems.
With STAR Check companies are able to obtain trend information that enables managers to target key areas requiring improvement. As well supervisors and managers are more actively involved in reviewing OHS performance once jobs have commenced and not just at the job planning stage.