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Measuring Performance

Posted by Richard Forster on 16 May 2017

Measuring and reporting on work health and safety An excellent publication with a bit of a  'glass jaw'?

There is much to like about the new publication from Safe Work Australia Measuring and reporting on work health and safety.

http://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/sites/SWA/about/Publications/Documents/992/measuring-and-reporting-on-work-health-and-safety.pdf

It is extremely well written by Dr Sharron O'Neill and Karen Wolfe who have managed to dish up a document that is both voluminous, weighing in at 81 pages, yet compelling to read. The authors have taken the idea of measuring and reporting from the combined perspectives of health and safety and accounting, after all, safety costs and there are many things to count!

This combined perspective will give health and safety professionals an almost fresh eyes insight into what can be achieved when considering what and how to measure and report. The fact that the publication is intended to be read by business leaders of medium to large organisations as well as health and safety professionals is neither here nor there as it is the health and safety professionals who are likely to read this and then recommend that their respective leaders do likewise.

The layout of the document is similar to a financial report. It sets the scene then delivers with an array of diagrams and sublime language, the phrases 'business intelligence', 'organisational maturity' and 'risk picture' spring to mind, it is indeed far away from a standard health and safety read and all the better for it.

The publication covers:

  • Due diligence;
  • Culture (both organisational and safety);
  • Understanding WHS performance;
  • Assurance of WHS systems;
  • Designing WHS reports;

It provides neat summaries and recommended further reading. The 10 appendices include information on key performance indicators, a sample report to directors as well as measurement protocols.

Measuring and reporting is one of those topics that seemed to have little in the way of meaningful guidance from Australian Regulators for Health and Safety (whether WHS, OHS or OSH) and this document is a timely addition to the health and safety library as preparations are made for the introduction of International Standard ISO 45001 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems Requirements for use. This new standard is due in early 2018.

As for the glass jaw reference in the title of this blog?  The publication includes a lot of numbers as well as graphs, pie charts and matrices. All are explained but this is one of the reasons why some commentators believe that the document has a bit of a glass jaw. What are the processes deemed to be safety critical and how effective are these safety critical systems? Whilst there is plenty of 'quantity', what about the strength of 'quality' for reasons of verification and assurance? Assurance is defined in the publication as the increase in confidence placed in a given matter or information. It could be easy to be seduced by a well presented annual report brimming with lots of numbers and pie charts full of good news.

The publication does indeed have a section that addresses assurance of WHS systems with certification being cited as an example of absolute assurance, which is an interesting concept, possibly worthy of a future blog.
It is a healthy sign that there is debate on this important topic. Measuring and reporting has not been given the guidance it has needed and the new publication goes a long, long way to addressing the situation.
If you require assistance with health and safety measurement and reporting please contact HAZCON for a chat on 1800 429 266.

Author: Richard Forster
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