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Mining & Resources | Planning & Design

Is ‘Zero Harm’ achievable or theoretical?

6 Jun 2013, by Informa Insights


Zero Harm is a much debated concept in the safety community and some argue that the term leads to confusion amongst professionals. We have asked industry groups on LinkedIn to participate in an opinion poll on Zero Harm in the workplace. A total of 139 people voted on the poll to date, resulting in 25.2% of voters believe that Zero Harm is achievable and the other 74.8% of voters think it is merely a theory.

To shed more light on this split, we also asked some of the speakers at the upcoming Safety in Action 2013: Brisbane Safety Conference on their thoughts on these two school of thoughts.

Greg Ford“I certainly believe it is achievable. The majority of workers go through their working lives without being injured so it is clearly achievable for them. We have many groups that work in high hazard areas that have gone many years without an injury so it is achievable for them. It of course will not be achievable if leaders and managers think it is OK and unavoidable to have workers injured.” Greg Ford, Executive General Manager: Safety, Assurance and Environment, Queensland Rail

“The term ‘Zero Harm’ is a goal and all goals are achievable. Sometimes when you are lining up a kick for goal you can lose focus and you must make adjustments in order to kick the goal.You mentally go back to the system you have in place in order to kick the goal. People get complacent but if there are good safety systems, supervision, auditing and training in place,  the goal can be reached.StephanGifford However, I believe that there are always going to be some unavoidable injuries in the workplace, for example, a paper cut. Therefore, I think the word “harm” needs some clarification. Clearly death is included and I think a good starting point is to include serious illnesses and injury and these are defined in the reportable injury sections of the legislation which gives some guidance. This is not an exhaustive list, but I think we would all agree that it is achievable to prevent that sort of harm from occurring. The chances are that if we have the above mentioned systems in place to prevent those forms of harm , then less serious forms of harm are also less likely to eventuate.”
Stephan Gifford, Principal, M+K Laywers

Phillip Byard“I believe Zero Harm is an aspirational vision that can create cultures where we  believe that people are precious and not a disposable commodity, where we care for ourselves and our fellow workers and don’t turn a blind eye, and where we agree together that safety is more important than production and so don’t knowingly remove controls in order to get the job done.  It helps to prioritise within a community, a business, a department, a work team a focus on effectively managing health and safety risk.  These are necessary attributes of a healthy safety culture … the devil however, as they say, is in the detail.  Zero Harm can engender passion but passion without critical, rational and logical models and strategies simply results in fanaticism.”

Phillip Byard, Manager & Senior Engineering Consultant, InterSafe. You can view  a more detailed response by Phillip here.

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