Posted on: October 24, 2007 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

I got the idea for the “Out of Africa” feature on during a visit at Lawrence Battiss and his family in Sydney in 2007. I thought it would be a great idea for African SHEQ professionals now working over-seas to share with us some of their experiences in other countries. So here, for our inaugural feature, an email interview with the friendly man who inspired it all.

Ben: Hallo Lawrence. You were employed in a large Railway Transport organization in South Africa for approximately 20 years, of which 8 years were served in the position as the Regional Risk Manager responsible for Railway Safety Management, Business Risk Management, SHE Management and Quality Management, in other words, all the components of a SHEQ Management system infrastructure and associated processes.

Lawrence: Hi Ben, yes that is correct. During that time, one of the inherent challenges was creating a structured Corporate Risk Register which accurately contained and reflected on all the potential threats and opportunities which faced the Organization, at both the micro and macro level.

The key elements of the system was made up of all the core business components of a Railway Industry, i.e. Financial, Safety, Information and Communication Technology, Human Resources, Stakeholder, Legal, Rail Operations, Rolling Stock , Marketing, Rail Infrastructure, strategy and Major projects, as contained in an Enterprise Wide Risk Management system (EWRM) model.

The organization also did not have an organizational structure to effectively support this system which made managing the process very challenging indeed, the continuous maintenance and management could only be managed on an ad-hoc basis. Therefore, the institutionalization of the EWRM system was significantly undermined and the integrity and accuracy of data may have potentially been compromised. This in turn meant that the Risk profile may be incorrect and the resource allocation may not have been apportioned appropriately to deliver risk control actions to mitigate opportunities and threats accordingly.

Therefore, Risk and Safety management did not have a significant influence in all major projects where the Project Hazard Log (PHL), or as it is known in some organizations as the Risk Register, did not serve as a project management tool to assist the project directors and their teams to remain focused and apply resources according to priority Risk controls which could potentially reduce the risk of project failure, scope creep, etc.

Enterprize Wide Risk Management

Ben: So in 2006 the Battiss-family moved to Sydney Australia and you started at Halcrow.

Lawrence: I accepted a position with Halcrow as an Operations Safety Consultant where some of my new duties include consulting to large Railway Organizations and Mines with regards to Hazard Identification and Risk Management, Auditing, Technical Risk Consulting, Safety Management Systems, Rail Safety Planning & Management.
Subsequent to arriving in Australia, I was placed within a very complex project at a large Railway transport organization.

I found myself amongst the Rolls Royce of professional Risk, Safety and Engineering professionals. My colleagues were people who have worked on extremely complex Railway projects around the globe. It was a little intimidating at first. The Risk and Safety specialists have Engineering Degrees as a basis and further Master degree or Doctorate qualifications in Risk and Safety management.

Ben: So now you have experienced railway organisations on two continents. What is the main difference that stands out in your mind?

Lawrence: A major difference between the two organizations is the amount of human and financial resources available to support projects and the detailed project management methodology to ensure effective delivery.

Projects are run independently from the normal line management organizational functions and resourced accordingly with a project director, project team, approved organisational structure and budget.

A major advantage of this structure is that project teams are mandated to function outside of the normal organizational politics, constraints and restrictions. These project dynamics create a performance based outcome, in support of the project aims and objectives.

The projects in Australia in a similar industry to South Africa, is managed with a major Safety Risk component in the design, build and commission phase of the project, with all the Hazards and Risks being closed out as the project evolves and achieves key milestone deliverables.

Continuous improvement practice therefore becomes an inherent priority and requirement to achieve a quality product and customer satisfaction, which also considered safety requirements throughout the project lifecycle. At the completion of the project, the project director is responsible to complete a post implementation report describing the successes and failures during the project lifecycle which is then reviewed by the project support office and used to improve the organizations project management methodology.

Ben: So if I understand correctly, you work on the Safety-side, within these projects. Can you tell us more about your responsibilities?

Lawrence: That is correct. One of my biggest responsibilities is the Project Hazard Log, also referred to as the PHL.

The PHL is a database documenting all hazards affecting the Railway operations affecting the specific project.

Based upon this safety knowledge and the application of the concept of ˜Collective Risk”, the project team is able to prioritise Hazards that impact the operations of the organisation at the network and project level. This output is referred to as ˜Railway Safety Risk Profile”.

Ben: So how is the PHL integrated into the organisation?

Lawrence: Safety Risk data generated by routine activities such as, the conduct of normal operations, accident and Incident Investigations, reviews or as a consequence of projects is subject to periodic review by the ˜Project Safety Risk Committee”.

Where applicable, recommendations to incorporate identified changes to the PHL are made to the Project Safety Committee. Where authorised, such changes are made and the pre-existing Safety Risk Profile is revised as a consequence.

Ben: What will we find in a typical PHL?

Lawrence: The details provided below relate to the ˜baseline” PHL and will change over time as revisions are identified and incorporated:

  • At the top level, the PHL identifies 14 Generic Hazardous Events (GHE) as the building block for the capture and reporting of Safety Risk knowledge.
  • Every GHE is further broken down into 140 Specific Hazardous Event (SHE) sequences.
  • Every SHE ultimately breaks down into more than 5000 event sequences.
  • Every Hazard sequence captures identified causes and associated cause controls.
  • In the event that the cause controls were to fail, consequence controls have been identified.
  • A total of 820 individual control measures were identified.

Ben: What guidance can you provide for people who want to use the PHL concept in their own organisation?

Lawrence: In developing a project PHL for your organisation you should:

  • Identify the hazards and risks, based on the nature and extent of your business, operations, and project.
  • Consider the likelihood of the Risk eventuating if no controls were in place and the consequences of this,
  • Identify any existing controls for the Risk, review incident data to identify Incidents in the recent past, consider the likelihood of the Risk eventuating with the existing controls in place and the consequences of this, and assess the level of residual Risk using a Risk Analysis Matrix (refer to Australian Standard 4360 (2004) Risk Management).
  • Decide whether the Residual Risk is as low as is reasonable practicable (ALARP) and, if it is not, develop a risk treatment plan to mitigate the risk exposure.

Download a PDF-document example of a PHL template.

Ben: So, it is now more than a year that you live in Sydney. In your opinion, what is the main similarities and difference between living in Sydney and Johannesburg?

Lawrence: In terms of similarities, the weather conditions are alike in the sense that the winters are cold and the summers very hot and dry. The fast pace of business transactions and boardroom activities here are more or less the same while the key contracts are tied up in these two very large cities.

In terms of differences, the property market costs in Sydney is one of the highest in the world which makes it difficult to own a home, a large percentage of the community are renting as it is far less expensive.

If a family comes across on a 457 working VISA, then there is a cost of approximately Aus$ 5000.00 (2007) per child to attend a public school, this is only applicable in the state of New South Wales, the other states do not have this cost.

Be prepared to undergo your full drivers licence when arriving here, that is your learners and drivers licence as the South African licence is not recognised in Australia for direct conversion, a benefit which UK citizens enjoy. You can drive on the RSA licence until it expires, or if you become an Australian citizen.

Ben: Thank you Lawrence for participating in this inaugural “Out of Africa”- feature and thank you again for hosting me and Christel during our stay in Sydney this year (2007).

Lawrence: It was a pleasure hosting Christel and yourself at our place and sharing some of our thoughts on Australia. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for making the effort to trail blaze on this new dimension to your website and I hope and trust that it will be of some value to your subscriber base in Africa or in this instance “ Out of Africa”.


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