Do we need to rethink safety prosecutions?
A brilliant article by Greg Smith first published here
I have seen a number of recent posts and comments on various sites, noting where company executives have been prosecuted and jailed for health and safety breaches. The general tone of the observations has been that this is an approach that should be adopted in Australia, and that the relevant authorities should be far more active in pursuing these types of prosecutions.
Set out below is an article that I did for IFAP in Western Australia. It appears in the December issue of SafetyWA.
The article suggests that there might be more to a prosecution approach than meets the eye, and perhaps even an argument that safety prosecutions could undermine the end goal of trying to achieve “safe” workplaces.
I am not trying to suggest a “correct” approach, but like so much that we do in safety, we should not just assume that a prosecution approach is right. Perhaps it is time for the genuine debate and critical thinking that was missed during the harmonization process……….
……………I have been involved in safety law and safety management for the best part of 24 years. There are some things I know, and an enormous number of things that I do not know. But one thing that I do know to an absolute certainty is that organisations do not examine their safety management systems with anywhere near the level of rigour that they are subject to in legal proceedings. For all its faults, the legal process has the potential to offer some genuine insights into the failure of safety management, but clearly, that potential cannot be realised where cases take years to finalise, and there is no record of the findings to review.
Perhaps it is time to re-examine the role of prosecution and inquiry in safety management and to think differently about what the response to safety failures ought to be. Certainly, the current approach cannot be blindly accepted as adding value.