Fear and Trembling of the Federal Safety Commission (OFSC)

Fear and Trembling of the Federal Safety Commission (OFSC)

imageIt doesn’t matter where I go in the Building and Construction industry there is fear and trembling about an OFSC Audit. The fear and trembling is not about undertaking an audit but about the excessive and petty nature of what the OFSC thinks is important in safety.

The phenomenal waste of time processing petty risk, that involves no legal liability and doesn’t assist in tackling risk is astounding. What is more, the self-serving excesses of the OFSC audit duplicates so much of what is already required by other mechanisms in the industry (http://www.fsc.gov.au/sites/fsc/resources/az/pages/auditingcriteria).

The OFSC was created by the Howard Government as an outcome of the Cole Commission . It was clear that the Commission was a political instrument used to ‘hit’ the Union movement.

What is most absurd about the OFSC is the continual expansion of criteria, duplication and excesses that create trade-offs and by-products that jeopardise safety. Bureaucratic safety doesn’t make organizations any safer than those without such bureaucracy (https://www.amazon.com.au/Paper-Safe-triumph-bureaucracy-management-ebook/dp/B07HVRZY8C ).

Unfortunately, when a government instrument is set in concrete and infused with the mythical delusions of effectiveness and branded as ‘safety’ it is nearly impossible to dismantle. Just imagine suggesting to anyone that we could be more safe by eliminating paperwork? Just imagine if an opposition suggested getting rid of the OFSC to make the industry safer? Just imagine if one attacked the delusion of paper-safety and suggested that less equals more?

Volume has always been confused with safety. The exponential growth of OFSC excesses simply feeds on itself and creates new problems and doesn’t make organisations any safer than they would be without all this bureaucracy.

It seems any time something needs a hit in Building and Construction Industry another duplication is constructed. Rather than question the issue of culture there is yet another bureaucratic and regulatory duplication. The useless White Card is a classic example. Another is exemplified by responses to the ACT Bringing Them Home Safely Report. Nothing of a cultural nature has been implemented after that report, just more regulation, more bureaucracy and more policing. Safety does a brilliant job of confusing safety with systems, more regulation and bureaucracy (https://www.accesscanberra.act.gov.au/app/answers/detail/a_id/3048/~/getting-home-safely-report ). Ho hum, poor olde safety culture ‘what we do around here’.

Unfortunately, It’s all Safety knows how to do! Smoke and mirrors, shuffle the chairs deck and double the paperwork.

Volumes of ‘Tick and Flick’ paperwork and ‘copy and paste’ systems makes safety bureaucracy meaningless and dangerous. I have never met anyone in the Building and Construction industry who speaks of any value about an OFSC Audit, regardless of what the OFSC publish about their quantitative survey.

Who in an OFSC accredited organization is going to have the guts to tell the OFSC that their audit is a waste of time??? How on earth can a bureaucratic audit be about culture (despite the OFSC use of the word)? Of course if you define culture so poorly, you can make of it what you want (http://www.fsc.gov.au/sites/fsc/resources/az/pages/casestudysafetycultureprogram ).

Of course, the OFSC survey endorses its own sunk cost and assumptions. When a government holds a carrot and stick over your head and the threat with a loss of work, what kind of responses to a survey would you expect?

I wonder why wherever I go no matter what construction company, the OFSC is despised and deemed a total waste of energy and time.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

6 Replies to “Fear and Trembling of the Federal Safety Commission (OFSC)”

  1. The good people of LinkedIn sometimes surprise me:

    “It’s such a terrible shame that with so much evidence to the contrary that this current Safety industry does not work. Safety professionals who I speak with still struggle to comprehend that a people centred approach to health and wellbeing with emphasis on social , psychological , cultural, community, decision making in risk, the subjective, the unconscious in communication , fallibility , priming, organisational sensemaking……I can go on and on….it’s up to us building and construction leaders to pioneer this way of thinking and hopefully as the new generation of leaders come through we can implement change”

  2. The government relies on the competition between contractors to divide and rule. If the major contractors could get together and refuse to bow to the nonsense of the OFSC then their bluff would be up. They all know the OFSC is absolutely useless.

  3. Dr Long.
    I could not agree more with the content of this article if i’d written it myself. And while this was issued almost two years ago all of the points are still reflective in what I am finding today.
    Having previously been subjected to numerous ISO audits, especially 18001/45001, i was astounded at the low level the OFSC was aimed it in the name of justifying what qualifies as a safety audit by comparison.
    Wherein all ISO audits i was involved in were aimed at showing the manifestation of a system into the application throughout the business around HSE/risk ownership and the means by which those with accountability and responsibilities discharged those duties, the OFSC seems solely driven on having an absolute statement, phrase or process within a document that not only locks a business into a singular option, but adds no value in furthering that businesses HSE progress.
    In my experience, OFSC audits don’t look for opportunities for improvement for the business. They are there to find non-conformance’s without latitude.
    Based on my experience to date with the OFSC and discussions with the business i now represent, I suggested they stop seeking OFSC accreditation as it’s been held for over 5 yrs. causing significant distress, with no one job being won.
    And if you question the merits of the audit you may find yourself in conversation with the OFSC hierarchy at their request, like i did, concerned about what consequence that discussion may end up costing.

    And yet i cannot find that much unhappiness publicised throughout the industry at what we are being subjected to. With the exception of my project teams as they hold no value in the OFSC audits and see them for what they are. A wankfest……

    Thanks for the article and sanity check.

    1. Hi David, Thanks for your reflection, it concurs with all the feedback I get re the OFSC. What an enormous waste of time and money that doesn’t actually contribute to keeping anyone safe indeed, it makes the industry less safe because of how it affects the culture of the industry. There is simply no external assessment of the OFSC of any value and it’s about as helpful as the white card. What is more, none of the peak bodies are doing anything about it and noone challenges it because it is tied to funding. Yet another white elephant of compliance that makes no difference.

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