The New 'Normal' for Safety Managers and Clients
Is your calendar full of client meetings all asking for clarification of WHS issues? According to my anecdotal evidence, if your employer is a contractor in a service provider role, get used to it. While the changes to the WHS Act and ‘Harmonisation’ have prompted an ongoing flurry of activity for all safety professionals, I and my close colleagues employed in sub-contract service provision organisations seem to be feeling the heat more than most. In fact, I’d describe the review of safety practices by our client organisations as constant and building momentum.
What’s driving this change? Well, the changes to the Act have forced a re-evaluating of both new and long term business relationships. Many clients are redefining what ‘trust’ means in respect of sub-contractor safety. Clients are becoming much more interested in the thought behind our systems as opposed to its basic outputs. As safety professionals, we need to start treating this as the new normal.
What do I mean by a new ‘normal?’ Prior to the changes the WHS Act, trust was primarily built on evidencing the procedural elements of safety management: completed toolbox meeting minutes, completed induction forms, SWMS signed off. Producing an ISO or Safety Systems certification was, in many circumstances, sufficient for many clients in respect of establishing and preserving the trust element of a relationship.
The new normal, however, demands something much more. It is my recent experience that clients are now demanding a greater depth of knowledge in respect of the application of the WHS Act, Regs, and Codes. As a simple example: It’s no longer about having completed induction forms; it’s as much about being able to demonstrate and EXPLAIN how the induction process satisfies the requirements of the principal and subcontractor under the Act. As recently as last week my own discussions with one of our key clients was based on our obligations under the WHS Act as framed against an analysis of parts of the Act from a ‘statutory interpretation’ perspective. What’s changed is that his type of higher level conceptual discussion appears to be occurring more and more frequently.
For we safety professionals the issue is not that we understand these deeper conceptual issues. The challenge comes in explaining them with succinctness and clarity. The new ‘normal’ requires that we not only understand the deeper interaction of the WHS Act with our own business, but that we can quickly and confidently convince our clients of the same. Our success in achieving this will be the foundation of new ‘trust’ based relationships of the future.
I hate outing people, but sometimes...
My local shopping center today at around 3pm. I've emailed the Center manager. Lets see what happens.