New H&S rules puts ev­ery­one on no­tice

DEMM Engineering & Manufacturing - - NEWS - By Craig Car­lyle

New Zealand is un­der­go­ing ma­jor change in health and safety leg­is­la­tion with a whole new Act be­fore the House in 2014. The Act in­cludes fun­da­men­tal changes to the health and safety ap­proach with ram­i­fi­ca­tions, re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and penal­ties right down the food chain.

The changes are based on Aus­tralian Law, the of­fi­cial ar­gu­ment be­ing that the Aus­tralian case law fast tracks our own de­vel­op­ment here. Putting an­other coun­try's laws and pro­cesses on a pedestal can be a dan­ger­ous tac­tic – but at least it of­fers an op­por­tu­nity to lift the hood on our Tas­man neigh­bours when look­ing for ad­vice and so­lu­tions.

There is huge po­lit­i­cal pres­sure for change as a fall­out from the Pike River en­quiry, and while this is good in terms of cat­a­lyst for change, it also has the hid­den downside of a whole new avalanche of zeal­ous bu­reau­cracy as the brass hats fall over each other to be seen to be do­ing some­thing.

Wor­ry­ingly, it also pro­vides am­ple op­por­tu­nity for ev­ery­body in the game to push their own agen­das.

The cross­over MBIE/WorkSafe crown agency is in the spot­light and has locked into a pro­gramme of over­haul­ing codes of prac­tices as part of the big push. Low hang­ing fruit is the tar­get of choice, so first cab off the rank is ma­chine guard­ing.

This in­di­cates the ex­perts be­lieve there is some­thing wrong with the cur­rent code of prac­tise, other than the people re­mov­ing the guards. The Main­te­nance So­ci­ety (MESNZ) takes a more log­i­cal and prac­ti­cal man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence view that rec­om­mends an em­pha­sis on be­havioural psy­chol­ogy, and per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity.

To pro­vide a so­lu­tion with a heavy fo­cus on cul­ture and so­ci­etal pres­sure that's backed by a regime that en­sures easy ac­cess to safety so­lu­tions for work­ers and busi­ness own­ers (less stick, more car­rot).

This is borne out by the forestry ex­pe­ri­ence where new codes of prac­tise have proved in­ef­fec­tive be­cause the ‘work­ers didn't un­der­stand them'.

Re­gard­less, in our mod­ern so­ci­ety, pub­lic and in­dus­try con­sul­ta­tion has cer­tainly pro­vided the op­por­tu­nity for fresh feed­back and a mod­icum of logic to pre­vail and you must ac­cept the small wins and re­main in­volved if you wish to counter a sys­tem that achieved noth­ing for two decades.

MESNZ cer­tainly takes this ap­proach into the guard­ing de­bate with a phi­los­o­phy of keep­ing changes real­is­tic, prac­ti­cal, af­ford­able and achiev­able for the aver­age oper­a­tion.

It may not deal with the per­son who op­er­ates ma­chin­ery dan­ger­ously, but if we can re­fresh the think­ing around the guard­ing, we have taken a pos­i­tive step.

The first thing for in­dus­try to get its head around is that our pre­vi­ously ‘brief' ma­chine guard­ing code has been re­placed by a new guide­line founded in the Aus­tralian AS4024 doc­u­ment, a hefty tome re­tail­ing at around $ 600 a copy.

Top­ping that off is an ex­pec­ta­tion that people re­spon­si­ble for ma­chin­ery guard­ing, (yes, in­clud­ing trades­men and en­gi­neers), are ‘knowl­edge­able' re­gard­ing the re­quire­ments.

WorkSafe has at­tempted to ease the bur­den by sim­pli­fy­ing the re­quire­ments as much as pos­si­ble in their ‘Best Prac­tice Guide­lines for the Safe Use of Ma­chin­ery' in­clud­ing pro­vid­ing pro­cesses for re­solv­ing dif­fi­cult guard­ing sce­nar­ios.

My favourite ex­am­ple of this is a he­li­copter ro­tor. How do you guard this? Im­prac­ti­cal. Il­log­i­cal. Un­af­ford­able. Laugh­able. Un­achiev­able.

In­stead, the op­er­a­tor is guided to a process of risk min­imi­sa­tion to safely con­trol the sit­u­a­tion around these ob­vi­ously lethal bits of equip­ment.

Add to this, a WorkSafe goal of pro­vid­ing a one-stop shop (web-based) for guid­ing oper­a­tors to a so­lu­tion rather than just the rules, and we have the be­gin­nings of a much more prac­ti­cal ap­proach to pos­i­tive health & safety man­age­ment.

How­ever in­dus­try must also pre­pare it­self for the next wave of ‘con­sul­tants and ex­perts' us­ing the changes as a li­cense to print money. MESNZ has al­ready been ap­proached by busi­ness oper­a­tors tack­led by con­sul­tants wav­ing the scare­mon­ger ban­ner to pro­vide both the prob­lem and the so­lu­tion.

Worksafe is try­ing to pro­vide a so­lu­tion for this is­sue and is look­ing to in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tions such as MESNZ to pro­vide ref­er­ence points for people search­ing for ma­chine guard­ing guid­ance.

MESNZ has com­mit­ted to the re­quest and has pro­vided a pub­lic list of ma­chine guard­ing prac­ti­tion­ers and con­sul­tants on its web­site www.mesnz.org.nz. The list is in the pub­lic do­main and will in­clude feed­back ca­pa­bil­i­ties (from MESNZ mem­bers only) to help guide the pub­lic in their se­lec­tion.

If your busi­ness is not listed, or you wish to sign up to the so­ci­ety and pro­vide your own feed­back, sim­ply con­tact the so­ci­ety via the web­site.

The fi­nal ad­vice to in­dus­try from MESNZ is to take a look at your Aus­tralian cousins be­fore you pull out the cheque­book. The govern­ment has based the new Act on the Aus­tralian statutes to make use of the ex­ist­ing case law.

It would also make sense then to check out the Aus­tralian guard­ing so­lu­tions and ex­pe­ri­ences for your guard­ing prob­lem be­fore you rein­vent the wheel.

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