Do not be a Pinball Wizard!

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Many pundits, including myself, continue to question the effectiveness of the Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) in Canada.

What is happening with JHSCs in Canadian workplaces? Most organizations understand the legal requirement to have a JHSC, and most JHSC members are smart dedicated employees that are committed about health and safety. Canadian organizations spend time and money to make sure their JHSC works – but it usually doesn’t.  What is happening?  It is a strange paradox which I call the “pinball effect.”

Even though video games have long since replaced the old-style arcade pinball machine, I think millennials would understand how they work.  For those that have never played a pinball machine, it’s basically a metal ball hitting an electrified bumper and moving in random directions, where the player has very little control over where it goes.

Click here if you want to see one in action.

Most JHSCs behave like a pinball machine – hence the term pinball effect. Most JHSCs start off with direction, just like when the ball is shot out into the pinball machine, then the fun begins once the metal ball gets bounced around in a haphazard fashion. Let’s expand on this metaphor with a summary of a typical JHSC activity: the monthly safety inspection.

The JHSC does a safety inspection and they obtain a long list of complaints from the workers about all the things that need fixed. The JHSC member is now bouncing from complaint to complaint, in a random way. The JHSC member writes up the complaints and gives them to the managers or the maintenance department who quickly become overwhelmed and don’t complete the tasks.

The workers get frustrated at the JHSC because they never get anything accomplished, the JHSC members become disengaged because of perceived lack of support from management, and management feels it is spending time and money on the safety program but not seeing the results. Everyone is just compounding each other’s unmet needs.  That is why I call it the pinball effect.

Since no one has ever solved a problem by complaining, here is my recommendation to avoid the JHSC pinball effect. The number one way to overcome this pinball effect is to change the focus of your JHSC monthly inspections.  Your JHSC should not be walking around every month with a clipboard identifying hazards. What should happen is this: the JHSC becomes the auditors of how well the safety program is being embraced with the organizations; if they see a hazard on their inspection, they should not write the hazard down. What they should do is ask two very important audit type questions, one to the worker and one to the supervisor. Here are the questions:

  • To the worker: Why did you not report this hazard to your supervisor?
  • To the supervisor: Why did you not identify and correct this hazard?

The JHSC should be writing down the answers and then taking them back to the JHSC meeting for discussion and recommendations to correct the Health and Safety program. This is how you avoid the pinball effect.

Discussion Questions

What other interventions would you recommend as a HR professional to improve the effectiveness of your organizations’ JHSC?

Click on this link to download a JHSC assessment tool.

Review the tool. Identity which assessments questions you feel are more valuable to improve the effectiveness of a JHSC. Create a smaller questionnaire with the 10 questions your feel are the most important.


Safety Costs

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There are three key principles in the management of Human Resources. These are, in no particular order, the management of risk, the management of costs and the management of investments. When we apply these three principles to the management of people they help guide our Human Resources practices in a language that non-Human-Resources business leaders can understand.

These same principles apply to the management of Occupational Health and Safety. Risks, costs, and investments are concepts that make sense to business leaders whose main concern is the bottom line. It is our job as Human Resources practitioners to make the connection for business leaders between the bottom line and safe workplace practices. We are responsible for the people who are the resources impacting the fiscal health of every organization.

Nowhere is the need for the diligent Human Resources management of risks, costs, and investments clearer than in the emerging precedent-setting cases linked to workplace harassment. The financial penalties imposed on the employer for failing to providing a safe workplace are significant.

Click here to read about a recent case where an employer was ordered to pay damages as a result of workplace harassment.

If business leaders to do not understand the language used by Human Resources practitioners when we speak to the social need for safe workplaces, free from harassment of any kind, then we need to re-shape the language to get our points across. We need to use the language that makes sense and has an impact on business leaders in order for them to implement what is required by law.

Workplace harassment in Ontario falls under the scope of the Occupational Health and Safety Act in two distinct pieces of legislation. Bill 168 and Bill 132 both impose the legislative requirements for employers to ensure that workplaces are free from harassment of any kind. When the employer fails in these responsibilities, it is a failure of risk and investment management, resulting in significant costs.

Money talks. It is the job of Human Resources to make sure that people are listening.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does risk management, cost management, and investment management apply to people management?
  2. How could you use these three principles to convince the leader of an organization to implement a harassment free workplace?
  3. What are ‘Wallace damages’? Why would these be a consideration when dealing with the employer’s responsibilities in an allegation of workplace harassment?

The Precautionary Principle

How to understand risk versus the perception of risk.

Understanding risk management is a fundamental skill for any HR practitioner wishing to explore a career in Health and Safety (H&S). As the Human Resources function continues to increase its role in relation to Health and Safety, risk management is quickly becoming a core competency for any HR practitioner. By understanding risk we can actively implement controls to reduce, or better yet, eliminate safety risks for all employees in the workplace.

The following video clip which explains understanding hazard recognition, risk assessment and controls.

Source: The above content constitutes a link to the source website. Please click on the play icon to stream the video.

This video clip does a great job at summarizing the overall concept of risk management and risk assessment as it touches on terms such as:

  • Hazard
  • Risk
  • Safety
  • The Precautionary principle

If a company’s goal is to truly improve workplace safety and eliminate injuries and illnesses, it must have an effective risk management assessment system in order to drive its safety efforts. Risk assessment is a very simple concept that does not seem to get a lot of traction in the workplace. It is a powerful preventative tool that could and should be used effectively.

By developing a comprehensive risk assessment system and then implementing controls to reduce the work with the greatest risks, any organization will be able to achieve the overarching goal of reducing workplace injuries and illnesses.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As a new HR practitioner, how has this video provided you with a better understanding of: hazard recognition, assessment and control?
  2. Your company wants you to research and recommend a form to be used as a hazard assessment tool. Research different types of hazard assessment forms that are available. Select one that you think is most effective and explain why you selected it.
  3. Explain the difference between hazard assessment and risk assessment.