Throughout the life cycle of any agribusiness, there is often an occasion where a new business or part of another business is acquired. Integrating that business into your own organisation has many challenges, not least of which is ensuring a consistent approach to safety.
Some of the challenges you face in this area include:
- understanding the safety processes of the new business
- examining the safety record of the new business and the transferring employees
- identifying the risks within the new business
- assessing the adequacy of current controls of those risks
- integrating the transferring systems into your own existing safety management systems.
The introduction of a new workforce and different systems poses several risks which, if not managed properly, can result in injury and potential investigations by safety regulators.
The common areas for these risks to occur include:
- the transferring staff not being familiar with the operating procedures at your organisation
- existing controls in the transferring work deemed not to be adequate
- failure to properly communicate work processes to the new transferring employees
- mixing together different safety cultures of the two organisations.
The challenge agribusinesses face is often that it is not possible to focus on all the areas of the integration at once. It is important to try to prioritise the integration steps in a clear and logical manner but ensure that the high-risk activities are addressed first. This generally will require a high level of planning before the transfer of the business occurs. This approach avoids the chance that important steps will be left until the last minute or dealt with on an ad hoc basis.
Equally, these issues arise in a situation where your organisation may not be looking to undertake a full transfer of a business to your organisation. For example, you may be entering into an agreement to operate a joint venture or a partnership with another organisation for the limited duration of a project. In those situations, there can be times where your workforce acts in unison with the workforce from another organisation. Again, challenges are posed with how safety is managed when there are different approaches to safety and where a full integration between the two organisations is not intended. The key aspects to focus on in that sort of arrangement are to:
- carefully plan for the integration
- have in place agreed processes that will be followed by the combined workforce
- audit and review the existing systems of both organisations to ensure that the most effective approach is adopted
- carefully supervise the preliminary stages of the integration to ensure effective ongoing management.
Overall, there are a number of strategies that you can deploy in order to ensure the best safety outcome from any acquisition of a new business. In summary these include:
- undertake an effective due diligence into the business being acquired with respect to safety issues, including incidents, workers compensation premiums, WHS management systems and safety culture
- audit and review the existing systems of the transferring business once acquired to ensure that the most effective systems are being used. This should be undertaken in consultation with the transferring workers so as to ensure that all safety risks are addressed and so that there is “ownership” of the process
- ensure comprehensive inductions are provided to all new staff that are coming across with the business so that they are aware of your safety systems
- carefully supervise the preliminary stages of the integration into your own safety systems to ensure effective ongoing management.
Author: Michael Selinger
Charles Power, Partner
T +61 3 9321 9942
Michael Selinger, Partner
T +61 2 8083 0430
Stephen Trew, Partner
T +61 2 8083 0439
Alistair Salmon, Partner
T +61 2 8083 0467
Paul Venus, Partner
T: +61 7 3135 0613
Ron Eames, Partner
T: +61 7 3135 0629
This publication does not deal with every important topic or change in law and is not intended to be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other advice that may be relevant to the reader's specific circumstances. If you have found this publication of interest and would like to know more or wish to obtain legal advice relevant to your circumstances please contact one of the named individuals listed above.