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Safety vs 100 per cent compliance


Safety vs 100 per cent compliance

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THERE ARE MANY policies and procedures in the workplace that provide employees with the structure needed and informs them how to operate.

These rules and policies also limit innovation as employees are restricted to operating under or within the scope of these confines. Any deviation from the standard requirements, even though it may have been the best and most effective in order to resolve a matter, is seen as employees’ failure to comply with rules and policies.

The fear of not being compliant has the negative effect of stunting innovation. Anything new is treated with distrust and frowned upon, which means that change that organisations so frequently desire, become the bane of their very existence.

This is clearly seen in the area of recruitment, where due to the nature of the documentation required, there is a need for heavy interaction with many external agencies for selection to occur. Due to the in depth verification processes, such documents take quite some time to obtain. Frequently, these processes make the timely acquisition of high numbers of new staff members, a mere fallacy.

Regionally, there is a cultural mentality that does not operate within set timeframes but rather in as reasonable a time as practicable. Hence, one is at the mercy of the external agencies that are governed under their own principles, systems and mandates and obviously not those of your company. 

In the meantime, the company continues to operate under policy confines that threaten business continuity, increase the threats to employees’ health and safety as staff have to work increased hours to provide the products or services so that customer requirements are still satisfied in a quality and timely manner. In addition, the organisation, even though in cost containment mode, is bleeding money, due to heavy increases in overtime and double time payments.

Despite experiencing these fundamental challenges that threaten the continuity of the business, ironically, rather than adjust their policies and rules slightly, at least enough to accommodate the environment in which they do business, organisations seek to change the operating procedures of external agencies.

This approach is utilised because their principals do not understand the nature of the region’s approach to work. In the Caribbean, the focus is on completing work in as reasonable a timeframe as practicable given the nature of the circumstance in which we find ourselves. While there will eventually be compliance, it will not necessarily be within the timelines governing the organisation.

This creates a fundamental disconnect between what can be expected and what is achieved. It places tremendous and yet unnecessary pressure on companies seeking to be in compliance with the standard operating procedures of their externally domiciled principals.

Unfortunately, rather than being able to achieve 100 per cent compliance within the set timeframes, companies frequently find themselves being perpetually in breach of their own rules and policies, because of the very nature of what is required.

The continuation of this stalemate truly becomes untenable as there is an extremely heavy dependence on external agencies to enable compliance. As the organisation painfully comes into compliance, it suffers heavy losses, as controls placed on expenditure while the company seeks to be in compliance, whatever controls placed on company expenditure, must be relaxed as the already precarious status of the company takes hit after hit in terms of unnatural increases in labour and operating costs.

The attendant increase in employees’ hours of work along with extremely limited rest times is fundamentally at odds with the health and safety requirements, as employees are exposed to increasing dangers in the execution of their work because they are exhausted and therefore cannot perform at their best. 

It seems that the human resources team has to choose between compliance with company requirements and the health and safety of their employees. These less than comfortable circumstances, under which the HR professional has to operate, demands some sort of intervention to ensure that the business is still able to operate, satisfy its customer requirements, employees are not burdened with heavy demands.

The onus will be on the company to relax its deadlines for the submission of the documents while in the background, continue to lobby the external agencies for an equitable and mutually beneficial solution to the recurring challenge.

Additionally, paint a portrait of the economic, social and legal costs that arise as a consequence of overworking employees and the extremely heavy reliance on the dwindling funds from social security schemes, as claims will increase for sickness benefits and potentially injury benefits as well.

The company would be in more of a position to achieve compliance with its external standards and by extension be able to maintain foreign direct investment, of its stakeholders. This would be to the benefit to all stakeholders as businesses will be able to execute their core functions, and employees would not be required to perform excess labour that render them unable to perform at their best because they are exhausted.

This would also reduce the social, economic and emotional consequences of ill health whether by sickness or injury. There must be an internal assessment of the flexibility of the organisation’s policies, rules and procedures with the view to making them more flexible and responsive to the cultural environment in which they do business. Organisations must be willing to change in a positive way in order to ensure that they gain the most from their external service providers. In much the same manner in which change is often thrust upon employees, and they are expected to embrace it, then organisations must follow suit. 

It is imperative, that employees’ be encouraged to practise making objective judgement calls as well as being innovative and creative in their approach to problem solving and ensuring internal and or external customer satisfaction. This is the only way that when it becomes necessary for the company to roll out evolutionary change, that it would be openly embraced instead of resulting in an all-out battle.

Once all stakeholders understand the importance of setting up the material conditions for flexibility and responsiveness as well as understanding the requirement for partnership, as is reasonably practicable, 100 per cent compliance then becomes easy.

Geri-Ann Austin is an experienced human resources and employee relations professional. Email: [email protected]