If there was a session not to be missed on Day 3 of this year's Safety in Action it would have to have been the last session of the day Lessons Learned - Panel discussion. And the question posed by all three speakers; Andrew Hopkins (BP Oil Spill); Jane Cutler (Montara); and Martin Dolan (Airbus A380 Engine Failure), why do we continue to see these types of disasters of a similar nature, why are we not learning from the lessons of others?
This followed a day that included a Keynote presentation from Ian Forsyth, Deputy Chief WorkSafe Victoria, and streams ‘how to motivate for safety', ‘low risk doesn't mean no risk', and ‘capability coaching - coaching the safety professional'.
An insiders view into the future for WorkSafe Victoria - Keynote Day 3
"2011 provides business with a once in a generation opportunity to play a role in shaping the future", said Ian Forsyth, Deputy Chief Executive, WorkSafe Victoria, when he presented ‘Opportunities abound with new national work health and safety laws', as Day 3's keynote speaker.
For those intimately involved in safety, it is an exciting time. The new national reform provides a great opportunity to profile OHS in the workplace and WorkSafe Victoria are focused on ensuring that Victoria is well placed for 01 January 2012.
In addition, Mr Forsyth detailed WorkSafe Victoria's projects for the coming year. The focus he said, will be on manual handling, systems at work that play less stress on the body, and encouragement of business to take up the OHS consultancy approach offered by WorkSafe.
"We are competing for people's attention, a place in people's minds, and we need to remember this when we are engaging with business and the community", he said.
Lessons are not being learned because it keeps happening - Panel Discussion
Journalists scrutinised heavily the BP operation, following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, referring to it as reckless operation - worse than the others. According to Andrew Hopkins, Professor of Sociology, Australian National University, these types of statements are self-serving and if you scrutinise the others (Shell, Exxon Mobil) you find the same thing.
Giving an insider's perspective of the Gulf of Mexico disaster, Hopkins detailed the many selected failures and focused on the complacency of engineers who didn't feel there was any risk, despite the numerous tests conducted which showed signs there was something wrong.
"It couldn't happen hear", said Jane Cutler, CEO, NOPSA, as she described the disappointment that lessons are not being learned because it (similar types of disasters) keeps happening.
Talking in reference to the Montara oil spill of the coast of Australia, a lack of knowledge and leadership from a senior level and a common theme of poor systems and process is perhaps a result of industry culture.
"We must never forget that we work in a high hazard industry and must never forget to be afraid", she said.
There are always more lessons to be learned, according to Martin Dolan, CEO, Australian Transport Safety Bureau.
This is just one of the six key lessons learnt from the Airbus A380 Engine Failure.
It is important to note that "there were positives lessons also and it's important not to forget these, such as a safe landing", he said.
Dealing with hazards you can't see - Low Risk Doesn't Mean No Risk stream
How does an organisation deal with managing workplace violence?
"This is an appreciable risk in a workplace, and seemingly a blind spot to organisation", said Steve Bell, Senior Associate, Freehills.
Painting a picture for people of a comparison, say walking around a warehouse and identifying hazards, "these are hazards you can't see, it's not like a piece of machinery", he said.
Requiring a lot more imagination about what a potential hazard might be, organisations need to look at the contributing factors that lead to workplace violence, including working factors, environment, and scare resources such as money and pharmaceuticals.
"If there is one takeaway from today's session it would be to have a look at your own organisation. There are some things in business that are known but unpredictable and there are things that must be done to mitigate this", Bell said.
If the workers don't believe in the language they won't do it - How to Motivate for Safety stream
According to Andrew Douglas, Principal, Macpherson + Kelley Lawyers, if workers don't believe in the language they won't do it and in relation to the concept of Zero Harm, they think its rubbish. And why? Because they know there is a chance they might get hurt.
"I agree it's (Zero Harm) a good aspiration but it will only work by skilling people to believe in it and then act it", Douglas said.
"A decline in fatalities is as much about policing as it is about anything else (Zero Harm)."
"I think Zero Harm is a fashion and for that reason it won't work".
Detailing the reason why he thinks Zero Harm is a lie, Douglas provided delegates with a healthy debate of questioning what Zero Harm means to them.
This wraps up this year's conference, and whilst there were many insightful, interesting and informative presentations, each day's wrap ups have been a quick glance at the calibre of this year's Safety in Action.
For those of you who attended this year, we hope you enjoyed your time at the impressive Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Centre, and that you were able to take away some ideas to explore further.
For those of you who were not able to make it, we hope to see you at one of our other upcoming conferences for 2011 and Safety in Action in 2012.