By NZISM Secretary
ACC recently consulted on the Accredited Employee Programme (AEP), and one of the things that interested me was the potential changes to the safety management section of the programme. The current safety portion of the audit standard is well overdue for a significant overhaul and to date ACC actions have been overtaken by retreating glaciers in the speed department. The good news is that they have put serious thought into what might be the options to replace the AS/NZS 4801 based standard they currently use.
The two key options on the table at the moment seem to be ISO 45001:2018 certification and SafePlus; perhaps chosen as a means of divorcing themselves from an audit programme and shifting the cost and management activities elsewhere. ISO certification makes sense as many employers already meet this standard and so will be able to drop an additional audit. There are likely challenges, of course, for other organisations wishing to attain this standard given that it is inherently more time consuming and potentially costly in comparison to the current AEP process.
What is a surprise is the inclusion of SafePlus in the mix. Designed as an improvement tool, WorkSafe were vehement when it was developed that it wasn’t an audit. And on its own website still states: SafePlus is a performance improvement initiative that is not a traditional compliance audit type product. So one must wonder why ACC seem to be seriously considering it as an option to assess safety compliance. There are benefits. It’s a tool that can help organisations improve their systems, identifying areas of concern and gaps that are important to both management and staff.
The issue is that SafePlus was never developed as a certification tool to give confidence to another party that they have good health and safety systems in place. Assessors will be required to change tack and focus more on organisations meeting the requirements to enable certification, rather than the improvement focus currently in play. Not to mention, there is no further training, moderation, peer review, or QA for assessors, nor site selection requirements or, to be frank, any other controls in place to guide the process. Imagine if a small site in Gore was selected by an organisation to represent their 10,000 odd workers, I’m not sure that would meet the intent of ACC’s programme!
Clearly there will need to remain some oversight along the way and I can see HASANZ being dragged into the foray. Although, I’m not sure they would think audit management was in their brief, not to mention, it’s rather overstepping their remit as a health and safety association.
MBIE and friends, in my opinion, were ahead of their time in developing SafePlus, and haven’t had the traction they were anticipating. So, having SafePlus as a certification tool for AEP will certainly drive an interest in assessments, ultimately supporting the sustainability of the SafePlus programme. What worries me, is that the inclusion of SafePlus in the AEP will devalue its original intent.
Clearly ACC is a bit limited in its market options for a ‘hands off’ approach when it comes to the safety management section of AEP - and I hope that they consider all the options that have been suggested to them, when they look to consult in the future.
We know from past experience, that ACC significantly influences the health and safety landscape of New Zealand whether they intend to or not - WSMP and pre-qual as an example. So I know there will be a lot of health and safety practitioners and professionals watching this space very closely.
If you wish to contact me, please do so by email at email@example.com
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Margaret van Schaik