Stop the Job You Haven’t Done Your ‘Tick & Flick’
A classic this week from a building site where the union comes blustering on site and stops work because of a safety issue. Sound familiar? And the key issue? Safety? Well maybe not. This is a story of duplicity and fake safety.
A new inexperienced builder without an EBA allows the union on site. Said union goes through the paperwork and finds some workers have not signed the safe work method statement (swms). What is a swms you ask? It’s a mystical document that when signed guarantees that ‘the workers’ have assessed the risks, understand the risks and can manage the risks in the task. Don’t worry about a swms in this story, because it is not even required for the task.
What a strange thing this sacred swms is in the church of risk and safety. There is nothing more important than that signature on a piece of paper that assures nothing. A signature on a swms doesn’t give any assurance that risks are being managed. A signature on a swms simply means you know how to sign a swms. The real challenge is whether those doing the task understood the risks and knew how to manage them and in this case they did. A highly experienced foreman and work team doing a simple task that didn’t require a swms with over 200 years of experience between them. Hey, but let’s stop the job cause you haven’t signed an EBA, I mean sorry, that swms.
If you want to know about the reality of swms there is no better analysis than that done by David Borys, see here – https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/157931930. A swms has now become a confession of faith in the mythology of safety paperwork. It’s like any confessional signature on any statement of faith. It proves nothing, indeed in court such a statement will most likely be used against you as Greg Smith so clearly articulates, see here – http://www.nexuslawyers.com.au/2018/health-and-safety-assurance-a-response-part-ii/
I get countless stories reported to me every week like this. Same mythology, same delusion and same grab for power. Unfortunately, stopping work because a signature was not on a swms discredits the union. Stopping a job because a swms was not signed discredits safety. Stopping work because a swms was not signed perpetuates the myth that safety is about paperwork. And you can hear the crickets sound as the peaks espouse their vision for safety.