Entry into Comcare’s offices is restricted due to COVID-19. Ongoing lockdowns may result in service delays. Be assured that we are still working and available to assist you. We appreciate your understanding and apologise for any inconvenience. Find out how you can contact us during this time.

Use space to open navigation items

Approaching health and safety differently

Video transcript of the WHS Inspector Forum presentation – Approaching health and safety differently. Presented by Daniel Hummerdal, Worksafe New Zealand on 4 December 2020.


Now we’ve got Daniel Hummerdal, who’s the Head of Innovation at WorkSafe New Zealand and is a world-leading safety innovator. He’s deeply involved in the development and implementation of Safety II and has been involved in the development and implementation of Safety II and Safety Differently concepts. WorkSafe New Zealand’s setting out to create an increased focus on the enabling conditions for better work for more desirable outcomes. Daniel’s going to take us through the rationale behind this approach, the benefits that they’re hoping to realise and how they intend to go about the change.

Welcome, Daniel. Please, take it away. Just unmute, the catch phrase of 2020.

Daniel Hummerdal:

Thank you very much, Andrew. It is a pleasure to be here. Over the last year we’ve had a discussion, a conversation, dialogue, perhaps, about the need and the opportunity to do our work differently. Today I want to share where we’ve landed and share some of the ways we have communicated this with the organisation to some extent. It is probably still more of an aspiration and an ambition of where we’re heading as an organisation and, as such, I predict that I will maybe have more questions or raise more questions than I have answers for you. We’ll see where we end up, but I want to start with a case study, so we ground this in practical examples that we can talk about.


Sorry, Daniel, your slides, are you able to move over to share your slides? I have a copy if we need to share on your behalf?

Daniel Hummerdal:

Excuse me, what do I need to do?


Were you intending to share your slides and click through them or did you want us to step through?

Daniel Hummerdal:

I do. If you can click them through, that might be easier.


No problem. We’ll have them up. All good. Up in a second. Carry on and we’ll get them up in a couple of seconds. Here we go.

Daniel Hummerdal:

We’ll roll the case study?

Daniel Hummerdal:

Just got a little bit of lag from the bandwidth. Caitlin, you might just pause that for a second and just see if it catches up?

Daniel Hummerdal:

We can go to the next slide, please?


Just taking a moment for the technology to catch up and we’re there, Daniel.

Daniel Hummerdal:

Thank you. I hope you could catch the story despite the pixel-y images that kept hacking through here but if you’re interested in going deeper into this case study, I suggest you just YouTube Transpower Tower Painting and it’ll come up, but I find this case study like a mini universe of our traditional approach to health and safety, and it also highlights some of the things that are needed in a way to – that we approach them to transcend these problematic side of things.

It started with a focus on what was wrong, and it was wrong on multiple dimensions, not only health and safety in terms of their lag indicators but it also had quality issues and productivity issues, and I guess Transpower tried to do what organisations do, they tried to fix the problem. They focused on the deficits and there was a bit of a blame game going on where they turned up the heat on these contractors and gave them shorter contracts, and tried to get change going by forcing it either in a harsh way or in a more motherly, caring kind of way by providing the solutions and putting a different set of trucks and vehicles available, up until a point where they couldn’t anymore.

The problem didn’t end. They kept having these unwanted, undesirable, unacceptable outcomes, and there must have been a moment of despair somewhere along the journey where someone said, “Well, this is obviously not working. We need to change our approach,” and they went from knowing what the solution was to not knowing, to asking questions about how work was happening, and they went out to their contractors and asked, “What are we like to work for?” and they essentially said, “You’re horrible. You ask us to do this magnificent work and you give us a 12-week contract or whatever it was, which is barely enough to hire someone and train them, and then it’s time to get rid of them again. It’s impossible to work like that. Are you now asking us to carry 20 kilos of PPE up and down these towers? Actually, the way you are trying to ensure safety is making us less safe or less efficient.”

They’re just listening to the current state, if you will, and they asked them something like, “Well, what do you want? What do you need? How can we set you up for success? What would that be?” and they sort of changed the power relationship from the top down, engineering-type compliance approach, to be one of collaboration, of trying to enable the good outcomes that they all wanted to see. It was not that these people weren’t interested in health and safety. The problem was more of a business problem than a health and safety problem. So that is what I want to talk about here today.

If you can take the next slide and even go to the slide beyond that, please? Thank you. Businesses set out to achieve certain outcomes. We plan work, we want it to be following a specific process and a specific order, we’re going to finish things on budget, on time. If we were to collect some performance data, we would see that work varies a lot. We’ve heard in other presentations around performance variability and the importance of understanding that, and it’s only occasionally that performance varies so much that it goes beyond the limits of what is acceptable, and those things stand out, of course, because they are unacceptable and we react to them. We end up in the news and we come to the regulator, and we need to do something, but I think it’s important to recognise that we end up with a selectively slender image of what work is like when that is our starting point.

Not only do we get a limited understanding of what work is like, but we also have a limited call for making things better. What we’re trying to do in those situations is really to make those unwanted things go away. So, we’re stuck in this deficit mode, this deficit worldview where what is between us and safety are really just these problems and we don’t really address the bigger system. So, that is part of a much bigger problem than just regulation, that, I think, is a problem of the worldview that we’re bringing to health and safety where we’re not thinking as much about health and safety, we’re more thinking about unhealthy and the unsafe stuff. If we could only make those things go away, then we will arrive in safety land where nothing goes wrong. That seems to be the assumption behind driving a lot of our efforts, so we’re reactive and then this locks us into a very reactive mode.

If you can go one slide back, please? Work is a translation of a current state, a [what if] to a desired state where if it’s about digging up coal or building a construction of some sort, and this tension can obviously – there’s a translated tension there and tension can be quite positive and a great experience where we find a lot of satisfaction from getting things done and people enjoy the challenges of doing so, and they have resources. There’s still a bit of a challenge in it, but it’s a constructive and healthy tension and people thrive in that space, but that tension can also be quite destructive and problematic. We have unwanted outcomes in terms of quality. We might have bullying, we might have health issues, we might have incidents, and it can be quite a problematic aspect playing out in this translation between the current and the desired.

When we have a lot of problems there is a risk of us getting stuck in the reactive worldview where we become very focused on what is it that we don’t want to happen in our organisation, which leads to this deficit focus where we’re focusing on problems to fix. We become increasingly superficial in our understanding of where difficulties are coming from and also what success would entail. We become increasingly short term and we focus on making things go away, and we end up in this sort of comparison with an ideal where the process, the procedure, a policy, a standard, if you will, and that in itself is part of the blame game that ensues where someone hasn’t done what they’re supposed to do or we feel like we’re victims of other parts of the organisation, that they’re not doing what they should, and the number of choices available to us tends to decrease. We decrease the bandwidth for our actions and empowerment, and we put emphasis on paper more.

But the really tragic thing around this approach, while it does give us some benefit, it does work to improve or make problems go away, it’s not very ambitious. It is really burdensome, it’s quite heavy to work with, but the best the future is is just a problem-free version of the past, and I’m troubled by the fact that that is what we’re often bringing to the table with health and safety, that the best future we can imagine is simply a problem-free version of what we have.

So, we’ve been talking about how can we take a more creative stance where we start highlighting a focus on the outcomes that we want to have, that we want to see in the organisation, and this is, obviously, already much bigger than just health and safety, and the ensuing question that comes out of that is not what do we need to fix but what is it we need you to grow, what’s possible for us now to move towards that future? This also invites us to take a much deeper look, like Transpower did in this case study, of actually seeing that this is not just a health and safety problem, this is a business problem, and looking at some of the assumptions about how we relate to each other, how we procure, how we think about setting people up, who gets to say about what the success should be.

I was very encouraged by [Tristan’s] slides about who actually gets to define what “success” is, whose voice is heard at the table. When you do this, it tends to build connections, as was in this case study, it brought people together to talk about the future they want to create. It empowered people to not only speak up, but also contribute with their ideas and they started working together in creating that, and as you move into this creative space, there are more opportunities available, and the future in this version emerges as a possibility driven by the strength and aspirations of organisations.

This is part of the ingredients in the discussions we’ve had that actually, sure, we want to have less harm, we want to have less illnesses, but in fact we can be more ambitious than this. We want to see Better Work in all of New Zealand where organisations are thriving and workers are flourishing, and so we want to go beyond the harm reduction approach that has been at the centre of our approach over the last few years and be more ambitious to enlist, and activate, and mobilise all of New Zealand to create a different future than what we have.

Could you go to a couple of slides forwards, please? Here’s another way. You may have seen these in other presentations. It comes from Erik Hollnagel, who highlighted this as a way to measure – illustrate performance variability. If you think about organisations, they plan for certain outcomes and we collect performance data, there will be some sort of distribution. It probably won’t look as neat as this made up one but there will be positive deviance where we actually finish things early, ahead of time, where procurement works a treat, where people are thrilled to be at work. There will also be the stuff that’s on the left-hand side where we’re running late, there’s pushing, sweating, screaming to get the goods out, and then on the left-hand side we will have the moments where we’ll lose control of the physical processes and we will have blood and gore and twisted metal, and that has been the rallying call, and it’s a good one, for us to get involved, and that has been the focus area and work safe, and I assume you, as other regulators, are really set up to address that unwanted tail end of the distribution curve.

What we do then is we intervene. We investigate, we enforce, we educate around risks and hazards and we try to move organisations out of this space, but to where? Where do we actually want to move organisations? Is it simply to get out of that negative space? As I provocatively said in the session, is our job to make organisations better or is it simply to make them less bad? And I think it’s a really good question for us to think about. Do we see that as our job, to make organisations less bad or is it, in fact, to instil change that sends them off on an improvement journey towards more positive outcomes, and what would that take?

Next slide, please. We reframed – we took a look at this, and you’ll probably recognise the language from other presentations here, that’s the traditional paradigm, it’s really where health and safety is simply the absence of what is unacceptable. We’ve approached people and organisations as problems to control where we take on the leadership role where we are the experts and if people could only do what we told them to then all these problems would go away. So what we need then is just get more compliant and try winning the hearts and minds of people in organisations to be as switched on, as if this was actually simply a motivational problem.

So, we started talking about how can we reverse this, how can we think differently about this? So we call this approach Better Work New Zealand, where we want to see health and safety – and this is the starting point, this is more than health and safety, but a presence of a capacity to make things go right, and we can nurture, we can engineer, we can identify, we can assess this capacity, and we need to meet organisations where they are and see what the next steps are for them. This, obviously, is quite a different approach than going out and finding non-compliances which they can fix and then we assume that things are well, but we also want to approach people and organisations as a solution to harness. They have a much more nuanced understanding of how work goes. They are fantastic sensors for what is happening in the system but they’re also sensors for what could be going on.

The third one is potentially more difficult to explain or put the right words on, but we want to move towards thinking in systems, that we need to create thriving systems. We can’t just think about one compliant entity at a time. It’s not about forgetting about compliance, it’s actually thinking about the relationship between different things, otherwise we’re going to get stuck in this administrative legal approach to health and safety where it’s about making sure that you’ve met the requirements, but health and safety is not simply about that, it’s about creating the conditions where good can happen, and to do that we need to look beyond that approach. So, this is sort of how we started this conversation about these three assumptions, if you will.

On the next slide, we have a slightly more translated version of those three. Making things go right more often means that we need to understand normal work, how that happens. It’s not about shifting to a success focus, and I see that people often, when they start venturing into the space of Safety II they think oh, it’s not about negatives, it’s about success, but I do want to put an emphasis that this is not about going to the other end of the distribution curve, it’s about understanding variability, everything that happens that gives rise to that distribution, and then we want to design quality and capability into that system to make it work more in line with what we want to see. A critical part of this is that we want to see continuous improvement and changes that organisations evolve over time.

Approaching people as a solution might be quite a tricky notion for some people to sort of get their heads around but I think the general approach, and this is quite alive and well in WorkSafe New Zealand, that when we approach organisations, we want them to be leaders themselves. We want to approach them as intelligent collaborators about enabling this future, but we also see them as recipients of trouble created elsewhere in the system and we want to understand where that trouble is coming from.

In the third bucket here, we have a more purposeful question, that health and safety’s not simply about meeting your requirements. Health and safety is about care for the people and we want organisations to ask the questions about what kind of company do they want to create, what kind of community would they like to contribute to and, ultimately, what kind of New Zealand or what kind of world do they want to contribute towards. So, we’re sort of really reframing the questions that we’re asking around health and safety in this space.

Next slide, please. If we look at what this is, it’s essentially a perspective, a change in perspective or different lens that we are now taking steps towards translating into practice. What does it mean for inspection, what does it mean for investigations, for our educational efforts, to do this? But really, we want to do this because we want to establish a new conversation which is really to question about how work happens, how work is designed, how work is organised and how it’s done, to ultimately massage the system to start to really question what is happening and raise opportunities for how we can do things differently. We know that the system is held in place by a number of factors and forces, and we want to take a really good look at that. We realise that this is very ambitious, and we talk about giving ourselves 20 to 25 years to see this through. We know that the regulatory cycle, it’s around 20 years for new regulations to come in place, so if we’re serious about this, that’s the amount of time we want to give ourselves. We also know that there’s a lot of people who are quite passionate about this and we want to mobilise more New Zealanders to have a voice and a choice in how work happens.

On the next slide, here’s another distribution curve, I guess. This is not the same as the Safety II illustration, this is about the diffusion of innovation. It starts with the innovators and it moves to the early adopters, and early majority and so on. If you think about when Samsung or Apple launch a new phone, you will have some of those super enthusiastic people that are putting up a tent outside the Apple store days in advance in order to be the very first ones to get this shiny thing, but while those are necessary from a marketing point of view, that’s not where the organisation’s going to make its money, that’s not where they’re going to have the impact. It comes later.

In a similar way, we approach this as better work is not necessarily new or I would probably say that it already exists. There’s a number of organisations and teams across New Zealand and the planet that are already working in this kind of way that embrace this way of thinking, and what we want to do initially is to sort of tap into that and shine the spotlight on those communities, and then collect other people into that and create a groundswell around that, and as we progress this our intention is then to toolify and to give frameworks and help organisations to move towards this way of operating. We are quite open to the idea that we can use any of our regulatory intervention toolkits, including education and guidance, as well as engagement, and who knows how we can actually enforce some of this as well. Those are questions that we’re now looking at in the next stage of how we can bring this into practice.

Next slide, please. We think that this is going to have a lot of benefits. I have a number of slides around the benefits. It’s difficult to summarise it all but the first one here is about having a more sustainable holistic way to improve outcomes. We move beyond this sort of reactive approach where we actually create a focus on the outcomes and getting organisations to obsess about that and being creative about enabling them. The second one is about moving from symptoms to systems. We have a lot of symptom recognition in our systems, but we rarely have that sort of system capability to understand the deeper factors and what we can do around those to enable performance in a different way.

The third one is really important to me, and for a lot of people, and that is about worker participation but going beyond [Wepa] for just health and safety, to turn our health and safety reps to be workplace improvement agents to look at more things than just health and safety. We think that this is a really ambitious platform or ambitious approach, which obviously goes beyond health and safety, so we need to – we will, and we have already - engage with other government agencies. We have engaged with unions around this and it resonates really well. People are excited about this. Some of them say, “Finally. Can we please start doing this?” But this involves talking about employment relationships, environmental concerns, so obviously we cannot do that alone. But WorkSafe is now setting out on lighting a fire around this and then getting more and more buy-in from other parts of New Zealand.

It automatically gives us a bunch of new and previously unexplored pathways for change. When I look at the pathways that we – the usual suspect that we go to when we’re trying to instil change it tends to be either the PCBUs or health and safety reps, occasionally unions, or we go to industry associations, but when you think about what we actually want to create is better work, it opens up other pathways. We started thinking about the Business Council or the Chamber of Commerce. You can get really quite innovative when you start thinking about, actually, there’s a lot of social infrastructure out there that is not traditionally used for health and safety. So we are sort of setting off and engaging with them in these conversations to say, “We want to see Better Work, which includes health and safety but also many other aspects.” So, it’s really opening up the conversation.

On the last slide here, I did want to say a couple of things what Better Work New Zealand is not. As I mentioned before, it’s not about shifting to success focus. It is not something yet, and maybe it will never be, something you can really comply with. You can regulate against bad outcomes or the unwanted but it’s difficult, maybe impossible, to regulate around the good, and as such it is not a best practice or a standard. It is something else. It’s more around encouraging, and driving the dialogue, and keep having the conversation that is simultaneously questioning what we’re doing but also opening up opportunities.

I do want to put some emphasis that this is not at all meant as a replacement of what we’re currently doing. We intend to keep our regulatory intervention toolkit, but it is a way to inform those activities where our inspectors when they go to site and they see things, that those things that they react to that traditionally would have been written up and improvement notices, well, is simply the starting point for a different conversation to have with this business about where this is coming from and what they can do to send them off on a more ambitious improvement journey.

The last thing here is, and I’ve mentioned this already, that this is not just about health and safety, this is about work, and everything comes together under “work,” and it’s kind of unfortunate how we have managed work in isolation or in silos, I should say, that we have the health and safety regulator, we have the environmental regulator, we have the employment relationship regulator, but in the end, it is a lived experience with work and actually trying to create a focus area where all those agencies and all those businesses are coming together because we’re all interested in that. I think it’s going to be a really interesting journey for us here in New Zealand. This has been signed off by the WorkSafe Board, that’s our direction, it’s been signed off by the Executive Leadership Team here, so this has been my year, really, to drive these conversations here and I’m very proud and excited that we have gotten this far, that the organisation is now sort of setting off.

It's been difficult to get bandwidth for anything else but COVID this year but we’ve had the conversations and this is a way, perhaps, to inspire you guys to think about or actually see that the regulator can really embrace the ideas behind Safety II and set off, without really knowing all the answers beforehand, but set it out as a sort of a program, a declaration of what you intend to do, and WorkSafe New Zealand, maybe I can come back in a year or two and talk about what actually happened, but this is where we are at the moment and that’s what I had planned for today. So, perhaps there are some questions?


Thanks so much, Daniel, and I’m sure we’d love to have you back in a year or so to see how it’s landed. That was inspiring, and interesting, and quite challenging in some ways. We have also posted a link to the YouTube clip because it did stall a little bit for some folks there as we were getting it downloaded. So, if you wanted to watch that in its entirety, the link is there that you can copy and watch later.

Somebody’s commented about the case study. “It looks like it was a win-win-win. Are the traditional approaches bringing in a range of unintended consequences? Does this illustrate, maybe, a fundamental aspect of our psychology where we attempt to apply increasing controls and focus on who’s to blame, when we’ve got adverse consequences, rather than stepping into a curious appreciate inquiry working collaboratively with others approach to get mutually beneficial outcomes?”

Daniel Hummerdal:

It's a question that answers itself to some degree. I do think so. It’s probably more than psychology. I have thought a little about this sort of reactive creative, if it’s a choice. With a little bit of awareness, you can try to simply move into the creative space but what I have realised is that it is difficult or challenging to do so when the entire system is set up towards the reactive. The government health and safety strategy, our statement of performance and expectations, the narrative, the measurements, everything is pointing towards creating the importance of the reactive space. So there’s many reasons more than just psychology of why we get configured in the negative problem solving deficit focus.

I do think that there is, partly, an opportunity to say, well, fine, that is our starting point. It’s not about denying the problems but simply seeing that as symptoms of trouble deeper inside the system and actually we are free – the future is up for grabs. Sure, we know that but what is it we want to create? Why are these solutions not working? What else can we think about? What haven’t we thought about in this space? I think it’s a bit of a practice in getting into the habit of asking more creative questions as well. So, psychology, habit, system conditions that are configuring us in one. In the first phase of us exploring Better Work is to really do a system mapping of what is holding us capture in the traditional worldview. It’s essentially creating a program for us to address over the next 20 years and identifying what’s the low hanging fruit that we can start with and where do we want to go next?


And somebody’s commented, “Surely there’s some organisations/individuals that aren’t ready for this approach because it is such a paradigm shift for some?”

Daniel Hummerdal:

Yes. Surely, they’re not ready for it. Surely there’s some of them that maybe will never be interested in this way of thinking. As I tried to convey with that diffusion of innovation slide, the initial phase is to start with the people that are already doing this and then invite people into that space and create more and more, I guess, [approaches] a greater groundswell, a snowballing effect there. As I said, I haven’t come up with a way to enforce this but as we bring more attention to it and this goes into conferences and different forums. What I have seen in New Zealand, and I saw the same in Queensland when I was there, is that what tends to really work quite well is where you invite people in to talk about their work and what is happening, and solutions and inspiration flow from one organisation to the next, and I foresee that we can have similar things here.

For the recidivist organisation, for the laggards, if you will, we will still have our traditional toolkit. To be honest, obviously it hasn’t worked very well so this at least gives us an additional way to approach those organisations, but I’m not saying that this is a perfect solution. I predict that we’re going to have health and safety incidents even with this version, but it is a different approach which I think can set off organisations to look deeper and to address things in a more collaborative kind of way.


And I think you actually answered another question there, which was around some of the practical things WorkSafe’s doing to spread this outwards, how do you promote it, and I think you’ve just been talking about that there. It seems to me that there’s almost a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy in some of this, that as you fight for more control and do the top-down approach, that you end up leading more to focus on the what’s not working and when you open up to have the inquiry, and the questions, and embracing collaboration, then you tend to move more towards those win-wins that was illustrated in the case study. Is that your experience or your thinking there?

Daniel Hummerdal:

Yeah. No, I think you’re spot on there. It’s quite interesting to see how – in that case study, and in my experience as well, when you work with organisations there’s a lot of – sometimes moral panic or control panic going on over the bad outcomes and people jump up and down that this is unacceptable, and they try harder, and they communicate how important health and safety is, and it leads to a point of despair, which I think is a good opportunity to be involved, where they eventually start, well, we need to sort of give up that and try a different way, and once you open up and you invite people, once you move into listening and understanding you’ll sort of, “Well, we actually need to do that first because there’s a mystery here that we haven’t figure out.” Once you move from organisations being a problem to being a mystery, not only then you have a change in your own psychology but it changes how you relate to people and to organisations and who you need to speak with about what.

Yeah, the control mindset doesn’t really lend itself to asking questions. Control mindset is more about you signalling what is important, you transferring information from you to the system because, obviously, you have the answers. So, it’s quite a change.


For me, one of the sort of standouts of that case study was that move from short term contracts, which you could see would be the attempt to, you know, I’m going to keep you vulnerable, I’m going to keep you on your toes and you need to be performing well or you won’t get the follow-up contract, through to moving to longer term contracts where now they can start to invest in some of their systems and safety, and now it makes more sense to train my workers more because I know I’ll have those workers for a year, or two years, or whatever, so provide that stability. I can see all of those unintended consequences of the attempt to keep the vulnerability or control.



Somebody’s mentioned here Carol Dweck’s work around fixed and growth mindset. Do you think this shift of focus or approach has a relationship there and that sort of move into more open growth mindsets, and maybe it relates to organisations that are sort of stuck in that-----?

Daniel Hummerdal:

Yeah, I can see the parallel. I read Carol’s book a number of years ago, which is obviously written up around individual’s mindset about their own – you know, how they react when they’re up against adversity and challenges, and I think it’s a good parallel. I haven’t heard that she talks about organisations and work in a sort of broader systematic way but there is a wealth of literature that does that. There’s a fantastic book, if you’re more academically oriented, called Positive Organisational Scholarship, which is essentially 72 chapters about instilling the good and the evidence base for this way of thinking. There’s the appreciative inquiry, there’s the dialogical organisational change, dialogical regulation, which is quite interesting and relevant for this group. There’s the positive deviance, there’s lots of thinkers and doers, so when you start thinking about how can we create more of the good in organisations, it could be just a quick Google will help you on the way there.


I’ve got a comment here from Tasmania which is, “Great to hear about your initiative. We have Better Work Tasmania, which has been running now for over five years with over 2,000 community members. We’ve had over 30 networking sessions, all recorded and available online on the SafeWork Tasmania website. We also have an online work, health, safety induction and approximately two and a-half thousand certificates completed. You may be interested in the progress that we’ve made with this initiative program. Worked with a number of partner organisations across Tasmania and Australia.”

Daniel Hummerdal:

Yes, I am. Thank you.


There’s a link in there as well in the chat. Another one from your colleagues, someone in New Zealand, “The point of difference between better and less bad is which is closer to perpetual progression? (47:10) WorkSafe New Zealand because they care for the welfare of all workers in wanting to get them home safely every day. WorkSafe’s going through a perpetual metamorphosis of changing behaviours from within itself, to change and effect clients and others who must walk the walk and it’s talk.” [Cue to us], Daniel. Question for the viewers: how are the Australian brothers and sisters dealing with this? I guess that’s for the audience to respond to, and that kind of reflects their question that was thrown in there earlier, which was around the culture. “Do you think - ‘thing’ – “think,” I think they meant there – New Zealand is more culturally prepared or ready for this approach or shift than other cultures or jurisdictions? Is this uniquely New Zealand?”

Daniel Hummerdal:

It's a good question. I’ve been in New Zealand for two and a-half years now. Before that I was in – I lived in Brisbane, Queensland for eight years, originally from Sweden, so I do have, sort of, a cultural interest. What I’ve noticed about New Zealand is there is a certain openness for new ideas and embracing things. I do think there’s a particular interest in New Zealand, actually, we want to carve out our own path in this, there might be a readiness for it. I do think that New Zealand is a little bit behind on the compliance paradigm. If I think about whether this kind of message would have flown with the organisations that I was working with in Queensland, it might have been more challenging.

What I do think has happened this year though that makes it particularly interesting here is COVID. COVID has highlighted the capacity of New Zealand to come together and to move on a particular question. It has really massaged us to be ready for change and to think about work differently. I know that many of us are still working from home, even though we don’t really have to, but we’ve discovered we can actually do this and we’ve come into the habit of questioning work to some degree. So, from that point of view I think it’s really quite timely.

I also think that now that the government is moving into setting up economic recovery projects, investing in infrastructure and so on, there’s an additional – a renewed focus on creating really good work that is going to help New Zealand. I think there’s a real recognition of the value of work following COVID, sort of a renewed, refreshed understanding of that importance, and we want to do that right. So it’s a good timing of things and part of that is the New Zealand culture, I think. It’s a difficult but interesting question to think about.


There’s a comment here but I’ll reframe it as a question. Will asking workers to own business risks while not owning the business at some stage create dissidents?

Daniel Hummerdal:

I struggle a bit with the question, whether business risk-----?


Yeah. Is part of this getting workers to take some ownership over the business risks? Is that part of the implication of this?

Daniel Hummerdal:

Maybe I’ve chosen a somewhat unfortunate word if that is how it came through. What I’m saying is that in your organisation, in any organisation, you have a team of 10 or a hundred people. The question is who gets to say what goes, and it’s not a question of doing, sort of, a laissez-faire management about offboarding risks and management decisions but it’s about how you work together to get the people with insight about what is actually happening, and their thoughts and ideas about the future, working together with the people that are sitting on the decision-making power and resources to make changes. If you only have one of those groups, you’re going to be behind, no matter how you do it. The question about how do you enable your team of X to get to realise the most potential that you have, it’s not about not owning the risks of the business but actually making the most use of the potential that you have.

Depending on how I understand the question, but if you’re trying to off the risks to your workers, that’s definitely going to create a dissidence but that is not something that I want to be part of.


Thanks so much, Daniel. I think you answered as well as anyone could there. Thanks for such a fascinating and really interesting talk. I personally think it’s particularly inspiring and I think many of us would love to see how this plays over the coming year or more as it has action out in the field and see what sort of changes take place.

Page last reviewed: 16 February 2021
Get updates from us
Subscribe to Comcare eNews to receive information from the national work health and safety authority.

GPO Box 9905, Canberra, ACT 2601
1300 366 979 | www.comcare.gov.au

Date printed 02 Dec 2021