Understanding your risks in business
The HASAW Act has placed a new set of pressures on industry, but totally justified if you look at our terrible record. If your company is already operating a compliant health and safety system, not too much changes other than an emphasis on identifying and managing risky procedures. If you were walking the walk as well as taking the talk before, you should not have too much to worry about, but if you have spent the last 20 years steadfastly ignoring health and safety, the message could not be clearer: shape up or ship out.
In passing the new HASAW Act, parliament has effectively tidied up the existing system (with an increased focus on risk), made clearer definitions, closed loopholes, involved everybody and got serious with the penalties. Fines now read like telephone numbers and the feedback from the courts is consistent; there is no leniency for not reasonably predicting risks.
On top of that, they have created a whole new Crown Agency ( WorkSafe), who has made huge inroads in providing a one-stop shop for finding the RULES on health and safety.
Underpinning the HASAW Act is a set of new regulations, telling you the detail of what you MUST do. ( These are the documents you should consult when health and safety rumours hit your desk). A complete new set of guidelines and codes have been developed, all with a central theme of finding providing practical solution paths for industry.
So, what does this mean at engineering, management or director level? MESNZ members have been studying the effect and believe there will be some hard lessons to learn for small to medium operations if the study results are anything to go by. While the focus at street level is on Job Safety Analysis (JSA) – the stepwise methodology to break risky procedures into sequential steps with the hazards ranked and controlled at each step, the MESNZ study showed that many operations may be missing the elephant in the room; the propensity of their plant to suffer a catastrophic failure.
While the Pike River investigation identified over 60 major hazard sites that are now undergoing specific hazard reviews, the society opinion is there are a vast number of operations that, while the public danger may not be as large, still pose potential risk of catastrophe traceable to lack of knowledge or action. In these cases, business owners may have no idea that a risk exists, where to start to find out the risk profile of their facility, or whether appropriate management is happening. The staff tasked with providing the answers may be blind to the analysis required to satisfy the courts.
Put more simply, in the sample group of assessments conducted, the existing engineering departments were quick to claim they were at full compliance. Yet when tested, these sites did not even have safety critical assets listed or were working from a flat file analysis. The bottom line was that if truly safety critical assets are not identified, equipment maintenance plans are not put into place or managed transparently. On one site, production machinery was well catered for but core utilities such as 11kV transformers and ammonia networks were not listed in the asset register or maintenance plan.
A vivid example of what can go wrong was the Tamahere Coolstore fire. Did the directors have the correct information in front of them to understand the risks or required management of their plant? In these examples, a professional outside unblinkered view is the only way for directors to arrive at the correct analysis and ensure appropriate management.
Mindful of cost barriers, MESNZ members have developed a Facility Risk Analysis (FRA) process to deliver a sharp cost effective tool to facility owners and operators. Using Asset Criticality Analysis disciplines, the JRA process involves identifying and laying out the site (facility) assets in proper process flow hierarchy before applying a proprietary software model to rank the assets. Results are delivered in safety quartiles, quickly identifying the key assets and equipment plans for comparison with what is actually happening on site. Along with capacity for JSA training, the society is now confident its members can provide cost effective scalable solutions for small to medium business.
The final word on “Risk” for people owing or operating plant is; check the safety criticality of your plant, (don’t necessarily take your engineering departments word for it) and take the time to consider all the normal procedures that surround the running, cleaning and maintenance of your operation. If in doubt, contact MESNZ for further contacts.