Telematics solution to H&S woes

by Maryvonne Gray 22 Aug 2016

Telematics solution to H&S woes

Meeting the requirements dictated by new health and safety legislation is something that could be done more accurately using telematics, according to an occupational safety consultant.

Brent Sutton, principal with Safety Associates, told attendees at ANZIIF’s recent Insurance Conference that when organisations have to assess the level of risk in their business, assumptions were often made which painted an inaccurate picture.

He said: “Lots of organisations are using risk management models that are highly subjective as well, and what telematics does is it gives us a true understanding of how people interact with hazards.”

He cited a good example of where telematics could have made a difference in the recent case against meat company Affco, where a worker cleaning one of the lines ended up getting a meat hook through his head.

“The company said it had a safe operating procedure that dictated that when this particular line was being cleaned the line was turned off, which is a good way to eliminate risk,” said Sutton.

“In a five year period that had undergone 15 reviews.

“What is interesting is that when they looked at all the cctv footage, the line had never been turned off, it had always operated live whilst being cleaned.

“The company had never monitored it to know how that risk was being managed.

“So the method of managing risk did the job, they simply failed to monitor it to know how it was being undertaken. Telematics would have clearly identified that.”

He said telematics would have also identified patterns of that happening as well.

“We’re now able to identify what we call pinch points in a business. All businesses have different demands, and different materials and processes that change in the business.

“What telematics is telling us is when people are congregating in areas or where things are forcing people to move into these zones of a factory where they are more at risk.

He said merely painting lines on the floor to designate risk zones would ‘protect you from nothing’.

“From using telematics, organisations have now got true probability counting and have actually changed how they work. That could never have happened in normal circumstances because regardless of how many observations you do you would never have seen it.”

Sutton said that with the changes to the Health & Safety Act and a shift on eliminating the risk of harm to people, or reducing the risk as far as reasonably practicable, telematics was becoming a crucial tool in risk management.

He said while the recent legislation change had swung more towards the safety side, the next big campaign would be looking more at the health side.

“There are 75 workplace deaths every year, but sadly 900 people die from workplace exposure every year.

“The problem is we’re not recognising that risks have two paths they can follow, an event path which causes immediate harm or a time path which affects our health over time.”

While the rate of asbestosis cases was dropping off, new topical cancers were replacing them, such as bronchial cancers from exposure to chemicals in commercial laundries, or in the early childhood sector, where caregivers were receiving 100 times the daily recommended dose of sunscreen.

“So I’m expecting those rates of harm to continue to climb and if you think that you’ve been dealt a bad deal with this batch of legislation just wait for the next lot to come around because health’s going to become a major problem for us.”
 
Read Brent Sutton’s views on health and safety within the insurance industry here.
 
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