The UnKnown Unknowns of Due Diligence
One of the challenges in understanding Due Diligence for safety people is clouded by the Dunning-Kruger Effect . Put simply, Dunning-Kruger explains a cognitive bias that all humans have in not seeing their own blind spots, particularly in relation to expertise. A recent article by Dunning helps explain the dilemma.
Let’s assume that a Health, Safety or Risk Management qualification is a generalist accreditation and that risk and safety work is a generalist activity. (Although I would argue that such are not supported by a generalist curricula in institutions).
When something goes pear-shaped in the context of the workplace the first port of call for a risk and safety person is to call in professionals with expertise. This is why engineers, lawyers, doctors etc. are often the second call after emergency services, ambulance, fire brigade, police and WorkCover. This is a good thing. Knowing what you don’t know is the key to teamwork and collaboration for the best outcome.
One of the reasons why Greg Smith and I co-deliver the Due Diligence module is because of the complementarity of expertise. I am not a lawyer, have never studied or practiced law or OHS law in depth even though it was the substantial aspect in my Masters in OHS. Sure I have been part of legal practices, courts and coronial enquiries in OHS and juvenile court, but I am not a lawyer. Similarly, Greg Smith is the first to tell you he has little expertise in Social Psychology, Education, Semiotics or Ethics. Together, we offer a comprehensive approach to the challenges of Due Diligence (https://cllr.com.au/product/due-diligence-workshop-unit-13/).
From my perspective Due Diligence is first and foremost an ethical orientation. How are we oriented to helping and caring for others in the processes of tackling risk at work? What can we do socially and educationally to help people at work effectively tackle risk? In face of the reality of fallible people and fallible systems, how ought we to think ethically about risk? What strategies are best for assisting people who tackle risk in the workplace, humanly and responsibly? These are the questions I consider in understanding Due Diligence. Whilst the WHS regulation may be a guide to Due Diligence it is incredibly subjective and vague regarding ethical responsibility and learning. The most common word in the Regulation on Due Diligence is the word ‘appropriate’. In other words, Due Diligence is something you work out in a social context according to the constraints and limits of that context, something like understanding ALARP. For me, Due Diligence is a social-psychological-ethical disposition. How are you oriented towards people and risk at work?
Greg Smith on the other hand concentrates in the workshop on case law and what actually happens when the courts test Due Diligence. He shows that many of the activities and bureaucratic processes that risk and safety people rely on are not a protection or help in court. Neither are these processes and bureaucratic tools a help in really managing risk anyway. His latest book Paper Safe (https://www.amazon.com.au/Paper-Safe-triumph-bureaucracy-management-ebook/dp/B07HVRZY8C) gives a good taste of the kinds of matters Greg covers in the Due Diligence Workshop.
One thing is for sure, if someone is telling you that Due Diligence is some kind of formula for managing OHS systems or, that Due Diligence is some clear and objective safety process, they have absolutely no idea about Due Diligence.
One thing the workshop does focus on is the practicalities for exorcising Due Diligence. There is no point in doing training that blows the wind out of the sails of many misconceptions in safety about Due Diligence unless you can walk away with practical tools of what to do next. The workshop certainly delivers in this regard. Time is running out for registrations for the next workshop on 20,21 February.
All attendees receive complementary copies of both Rob’s and Greg’s books Risky Conversations and Paper Safe as well as a suite of practical take away tools in a neat wallet.