All posts tagged safety management systems

A Tale of Two Committees

This piece was first published, in edited form, in the Hill Times on July 3, 2014.

When Dickens wrote the opening to A Tale of Two Cities, set over two hundred years ago, he described an age of contrasts – wisdom and foolishness, belief and skepticism, hope and despair. He also wryly observed that this could be said of any era. It certainly seemed true to whistleblowing advocates attending two sets of recent Parliamentary committee hearings.

The committees in question were the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (or OGGO, as it’s commonly known) and the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (or TRAN). In both cases, the committees had serious, deeply embedded problems to tackle: whistleblower protection on one hand, and aviation safety on the other.

For its part, OGGO set its sights on reviewing the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act in early February. This is the law which is supposed to protect federal government whistleblowers, but which has been spectacularly ineffective at doing so for 10 years. Without going into details – David Hutton and Allan Cutler have dealt with the issues thoroughly in previous editions of the Hill Times – it would be no exaggeration to say that the law intended to protect whistleblowers is little known and even less trusted by the rank-and-file public service.… Read the rest

A man of courage

Last week I had the honour to accompany Hugh Danford, a whistleblower of great courage, to the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. Hugh is a former pilot with many, many years in the cockpit and who served as an aviation safety inspector at Transport Canada from 1996 to about 2004.

Following a 1999 crash in Davis Inlet which killed 22 year-old Damien Hancock, Mr. Danford prepared a report documenting Transport Canada management’s failure to act against the pilot (the Hancock report). This pilot had already crashed four times and had a long history of other violations. The Hancock report also noted that Transport Canada was not implementing a Transportation Safety Board recommendation and that Transport Canada was negligent and in part responsible for the death of Damien Hancock.

As punishment for speaking out persistently, Transport Canada senior management employed a tactic which has been well described in literature on whistleblowing: dubbed the “nuts and sluts” approach, there was a concerted effort to represent Mr. Danford as mentally unstable (women are sometimes represented as promiscuous). He was also described as insubordinate. At one point, Transport Canada management ordered him arrested on unfounded allegations that he had made a death threat.… Read the rest

Media Update for April 17, 2011

Advance warnings negate benefits of inspections:

It seems that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is giving egg producers an easy ride when it comes to inspections. A blogger has posted that the CFIA gives as much as two weeks notice. Some producers have used this time to clean up and get their hen-houses in order. This, of course, negates the much of the benefit of an inspection regime. To be really effective, they should be random, unannounced and include real testing (as opposed to just inspecting the paperwork).

The CFIA should know better, but can’t seem to change itself. There were many lessons learned after the 2008 listeriosis outbreak, but they still haven’t implemented many of them – most notably the lack of inspectors. How can they promote a safety culture in the industry when they themselves are so negligent?

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Inspections lack surprise
Agri 007 (blog), April 13, 2011
Summary: If you’re speeding and get warning that there’s a policeman with radar over the hill, you slow down to the speed limit.  You’re not caught and disciplined, so you probably continue to speed. There appear to be lots of warnings for egg farmers in Ontario and grading stations that the enforcers are coming, so few are caught and disciplined.… Read the rest