by Jane Hall and Sam Witton
Seyfarth Shaw LLP is an IMA member international AmLaw 100 law firm…
Addressing issues including mental wellbeing and workplace responses to domestic violence and sexual misconduct require multidisciplinary approaches. The risk management skill set which health and safety professionals possess has an important part to play in a holistic approach that should be used in collaboration with human and resource management professionals. The most creative organisations understand that cross-disciplinary teams are best placed to respond to new workplace challenges and facilitate pooling of ideas from safety, human resources, industrial, wellbeing and other professionals – working in true collaboration.
The recent discussion paper on Mentally Healthy Workplaces in New South Wales recognised the importance of identifying organisational psychosocial risks together with individual psychosocial risks such as bereavement, or new parent fatigue which may render workers more vulnerable to psychosocial risks at work. A traditional risk management approach does not provide a complete answer and organisations are responding by allowing safety professionals to upskill to identify meaningful strategies that will improve health and wellbeing.
Networks and Contacts
Safety professionals cannot possibly hope to be subject matter experts on every topic as their work, and the tools available to them, expand. Take for example, big data. We all know that if we can harness and mine the wealth of data we capture, we are more likely to be pro-active and could, for example, better predict issues like plant break down or fatigue onset. This opportunity sees safety professionals reaching for their metaphorical rolodex to build an understanding of, or the ability to source, specialist skills in data analytics and coding.
Pioneering safety professions are building and maintaining wide networks of specialists from a variety of fields and encouraging their teams to do the same. Being less insular makes the profession more relevant and responsive.
Some of the most pioneering safety initiatives we have seen in recent times draw on the skills of illustrators, computer animators, actors and advertising creatives (to name a few). As our appetite for digesting written information decreases, the most innovative organisations will foster collaboration between safety professionals and others to ‘keep it real’.
Viva la Refinement
Avoiding the temptation to ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ when responding to challenges. Asking if existing frameworks, with refinement, will address new challenges. The supply chain risk of modern day slavery is a good example. Where the pre-qualification processes, system of inspections, audits and verification that are familiar tools to the safety professional are ones which, with refinement, can be deployed to address aspects of working conditions at the ends of supply chains so they are not exploitative.
Nimbleness and Harnessing Technological Platforms
We have previously written on the employment law challenges which arise from highly flexible workforces. For safety professionals a similar set of challenges arise because there are likely fewer traditional ‘touch points’ with workers and less ‘face time’ when compared to more traditional models of work.
Increasingly, flexible approaches are being used to induct workers, maintain training, provide an appropriate level of supervision and create and maintain the safety culture businesses desire in highly flexible workforces. Nimble organisations are supporting safety professionals to build multi-disciplinary teams to change their modes of delivery and to embrace the same technological platforms which allow for the flexibility in employment to communicate safety messages.
To view the original article, click here.