In July 2023, the Canterbury Safety Charter will celebrate its ten-year anniversary. A committee has started organising a one-day conference and gala dinner to celebrate this milestone, so please put a circle around Thursday, 29th June 2023, in your calendar today. Both the Safety Charter and the health and safety landscape have changed significantly over this time.
The last ten years have been dramatic in other significant ways. It is now very hard to imagine life in Christchurch before the earthquakes, mosque attacks, and covid.
These three events have changed our physical, emotional, and spiritual identities in ways that we could not possibly imagine before they occurred. The city and its people remain scarred but resilient, and each day we seem to focus more on the future than the past. The Te Kaha multi use arena finally getting off the ground is a great example of this.
The same is true of the Charter, in that the health and safety gains made over the last decade are somewhat cemented in the workplace, and we must turn out attention more to what the future might hold.
Predicting the past is a relatively easy thing to do, and a lot of people spend a lot of time doing this very successfully. Looking backwards to try and navigate our way forward can be very restrictive in its view and limit the potential avenues to explore. The past should not be a handbrake on creativity and imagination. The road to the future should start with us imagining what it could look and how we might get there.
Can we imagine a future where human error is considered normal, where blame is cast aside, where we recognize the importance of context driving behavior, and learning and leadership are considered vital. This is the change from compliance to culture and are the foundations of the health and safety movement which is occurring now.
I believe that the future of health and safety in the medium term will involve a greater emphasis on mentally healthy work, and greater use of technology as a collaboration and communication tool. Currently only one of the ten Charter Commitments to health and safety improvements that our members make is concerned primarily with mental safety. And yet our mental state is closely related to our physical state, and each affects the other. Maybe this needs to change?
The use of technology for outcomes other than compliance is another change that is starting to happen now. The BIMSafe NZ Project currently underway imagines a future where both health and safety by design and safe work practices can be markedly improved using BIM models as a visualization tool.
Ten years ago, the Safety Charter started out as a cutting-edge innovation in health and safety by people imagining the demolition and rebuild of a city with zero deaths in the workforce. This was a remarkable achievement and well worthy of celebration. It proved the power of industry collaboration on health and safety, and what can be achieved when we all row the waka in the same direction. The Safety Charter will never lose sight of its past, but to make further gains we need to go into some unchartered waters.
Paul Duggan, General Manager