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How to stay on the right side of regulators

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With a spotlight on our drinking culture nationally, tightening regulations, and lockout laws grabbing headlines in Sydney and other areas, the pressure is on venues large and small to demonstrate an environment of compliance and safety.

So, what’s the solution? With evolving regulations spanning local, state and federal governments, compliance can be a complicated burden for business owners, and a daily challenge for venues to balance compliance and other business pressures.

We talked to Jason Thomas, former police inspector and now director of digital compliance firm AusComply, to find out what regulators are looking for and what venues can do to demonstrate a culture of compliance.

SHOW, DON’T TELL

‘I’m in and out of venues every day, and the fact is the vast majority are well-run and are doing all the right things. The problem I see is that they have no way to demonstrate this conclusively to regulators,’ says Thomas.

Palace Hotel granted first lockout exemption

Palace Hotel was the first venue to be granted an exemption from Sydney’s lockout laws to trade with alcohol and host a 3 am All Blacks versus Argentina rugby game. In their formal response, Liquor & Gaming NSW said they took into account the hotel’s track record of proactive compliance as recorded in their AusComply digital incident register.

‘They’ve got the guards, they’re doing the checks, they’re dealing with problems well, but if push comes to shove, they typically have little or no real evidence of this activity to show regulators beyond what might be seen on a regulator walkthrough.

‘In most cases, reporting still relies on multiple paper-based incident registers (duplication between liquor and security regulations), notebooks in back pockets and often hazy recollections after a busy night. This means that capturing information is hit and miss, and finding records from old books is painful.’

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF DIGITAL TOOLS

‘While the hospitality industry has embraced technology in many areas – from point of sale and gaming machines, to ID scanning, social media and sales analytics – compliance has barely advanced from paper books and notepads,’ says Thomas.

‘If you’re managing compliance or security for a venue, chances are you’re using manual, duplicated paper-based systems designed years ago.’

For an industry dealing with complex regulations, continual training requirements, an itinerant workforce and serious safety risks, digital compliance systems are now almost essential for avoiding the consequences of simple breaches.

Digital incident registers for liquor and security are now approved for use by regulators to replace printed books in New South Wales and Queensland, and a system like AusComply is also compliant with legislation in Victoria, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

This means you can replace your paper-based venue and security registers, removing duplication, and unifying data entry and reporting. Online tools also help you and your staff to record, review and analyse incident data from your mobile device.

‘As an owner or manager, real-time data not only gives you peace of mind that you are doing all the right things, but also lets you prove it when you need to.’

GET ON THE FRONT FOOT

Compliance is often seen as a box-ticking exercise; however, operators are increasingly using technology to not only fulfil their legal obligations and minimise liabilities, but to run better, safer and more profitable businesses. ‘Legislation already makes it compulsory to log the basics

anyway. So digital tools don’t actually change the way you do business, they simply make it easy for you to track both legislative and proactive actions. ‘A huge benefit of digital incident reporting is that it’s conducive to capturing data contemporaneously – at or near the time the event happened – and it’s also time and date stamped, GPS tracked and auditable. This means it is evidence that would stand up in a court of law if needed.

With the lower risks, many of our clients also report benefits in their insurance rating and fees.

‘If issues arise, or regulators come knocking, you have detailed reports on hand – whether it’s something that happened that night or in the past. Without accurate and timely reports, you are exposed to legal and compliance risks, or a case of your word against theirs.’

Sunken Monkey off the naughty list

A series of assaults led to Erina’s Sunken Monkey being added to the violent venues list, where it was expected to stay for up to two years. After implementing a digital incident register with transparent reporting and automated processes, incidents were reduced and they were removed from the list in record time.

Beer Deluxe eliminates books

With the use of digital incident registers now approved by New South Wales and Queensland regulators, venues of all sizes are swapping paper-based liquor and security registers for one online system. Beer Deluxe in Albury has done away with books altogether, saving time, money and hassle. The realtime reporting has also strengthened their relationship with local regulators.

 

 

HOW TO SHOW A CULTURE OF COMPLIANCE

Beyond the basics, log your preventative and proactive actions such as:

  • white-level inspections
  • toilet checks
  • RSA walkthroughs
  • ID checks
  • perimeter patrols
  • neighbourhood amenity checks
  • decibel meter readings
  • signage checks
  • RSA decisions.

TRANSPARENCY IS GOOD FOR EVERYONE

Having spent years in the industry, on both sides of the compliance fence, Thomas believes that all industry stakeholders want the same result.

‘Everyone wins if we get a vibrant, safe and responsible environment for patrons, venues, security and authorities. Regulation technology can help achieve this.

‘There’s no great secret to getting it right. It simply starts with a commitment to being compliant and then engaging the right digital platform(s) – the rest is easy. Good systems will largely structure the process for you.’ C&PM

Jason Thomas is a Director of AusComply, an Australian-owned digital incident register and compliance platform. He was a former inspector and senior member of Audit and Compliance for the NSW Police. Get in touch via AusComply.com.au, 1300 2 COMPLY, or info@auscomply.com.au.

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