How should we, as safety professionals, deal with the inevitable non-compliances which occur from time to time, in every business?
Should we pretend that we do comply with all requirements, even when we know we don’t; should we notify the regulator of every breach, or something else?
Every safety policy states something like “…we will comply with all workplace safety laws .…”, but few organisations methodically seek confirmation that this commitment is delivered.
So how do best practice businesses deal with non-compliances, in order to find a workable way forward?
Remember, audits which discover non-compliances (legislative or other) do not create liabilities in and of themselves – it is only our inaction in response to such knowledge that will condemn us.
A “safe time” for conducting legal compliance audits is during prescribed transition periods when new legislation has been introduced. However, most organisations don’t have this luxury today with existing legislation, if concerned about the level of compliance.
Occasionally concerned directors (or Boards collectively) seek written assurance from the business managers that all operations are in full legal compliance…
Refusal to give an absolute sign-off on compliance should not to be confused with belligerence or incompetence.
Some managers have agreed to provide things like:
- List all legislation (Federal and State) with potential relevance to the business; and
- Identification of the key legislative requirements (from each piece of relevant legislation); and
- List of systems/procedures in place designed to ensure compliance; and
- Validation comments e.g. current status of the compliance systems
This is a “systems response”, which is consistent with most legislation which requires compliance “as far as reasonably practicable”.
Managers can only reasonably ensure effective systems are in place, but cannot guarantee the behaviour of every individual in every circumstance.
This topic will be included in our future strategic safety planning workshops (later in 2016), and of course if the matters are serious, seek legal advice.