Professor Niki Ellis speaks about OHS, CSR and resilience 2

Next week the National Comcare Conference is held in Melbourne Australia.  One of the keynote speakers at the conference is Professor Niki Ellis, a prominent Australian OHS researchers and consultant  who is also heading up the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR). On a sunny September 5 2011 I was able to spend half and hour with Niki at a noisy cafe outside Victoria’s State Library talking about: The profile of OHS is Australia as a profession The importance of a practical application for OHS research (what Niki refers to as “interventionist research”) The need for innovation More…

France Telecome’s CSR report is telling but sets high expectations Reply

In 2009, France Telecom’s management practices came to global attention as a result of a spate of over 20 suicides that were identified as work-related.  On 6 June 2011, France Telecom released its Corporate Responsibility Report that covers the period of the management turmoil touched upon in earlier SafetyAtWorkBlog articles. The document is an impressive document that sets an enormously high benchmark on a range of corporate and personnel issues but one will find no mention of suicides.  The best indication that this was a company in crisis is the level of inquiries, reviews, audits More…

CSR and public health 4

The recent conference of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) gave considerable attention to corporate social responsibility (CSR).  It could be argued that this shows the ASSE is years behind many others but it could also be argued that CSR has a practical longevity in workplace safety that may have faded in other CSR areas. A recent article in Health Education, “Workplace health promotion within small and medium-sized enterprises” may provide some clues for forward planning on mental health, wellbeing and OHS.  The authors* write: “There needs to be a clear distinction between activities More…

CSR in firing line on asbestos compensation Reply

SafetyAtWorkBlog has not reported on the asbestos compensation problems faced by James Hardie Industries directly because in 2009, the issue is one of corporate responsibility more so than workplace safety.  The reality is that asbestos kills and victims deserve compensation.  The fact that asbestos companies are avoiding their responsibilities is of little surprise. In Australia, most of the focus has been on James Hardie due, principally, to its corporate conduct to the Australian stock exchange and its prosecution by the financial regulators.  But another asbestos miner and building product manufacturer is at the Australian Courts in December 2009. In some ways, More…

Book review: Business, Environment, and Society – Themes and Cases Reply

Australia’s Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program (HIP) spent a great deal of time looking at the design of what started as an environmental initiative delivered in one way to an economic stimulus package delivered another way.  The HIP, and the people working with it, struggled to accommodate these changes.  A new book from Baywood Publishing in the United States, coincidentally, looks at the growth in ‘green jobs” and, among many issues, discusses how such jobs can affect worker health. In “Business, Environment, and Society – Themes and Cases” Vesela R Veleva writes “Green More…

Fear of exposure rather than pride in their work 3

“Due diligence” is an established business management concept that only recently came to be applied to occupational health and safety (OHS) in Australia through the Work Health and Safety (WHS) harmonisation process.  It’s credibility comes from the Corporations Act, principally, but also Consumer Protection and, partly, Environmental laws. The attention given by OHS/WHS professionals and senior executives to due diligence is already changing how workplace safety is managed in a positive way but recently the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) proposed weakening the broad due diligence obligations. If this proposal is accepted and implemented by More…

OHS is not all about covering one’s arse 5

It is very common to hear people say that the core motivation for introducing or improving workplace safety management is to cover one’s arse (to protect oneself from various legislative and reputational exposures), be that the collective arse of management, the board and executives or the arse of the individual worker.  This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the intention occupational health and safety (OHS) laws and principles yet the fear of reputational damage is a strong motivator of change with which safety professionals should learn to work and, perhaps, exploit, particularly as the traditional methods More…

Are you ready for the revised AS1657 on walkways, ladders and platforms? Reply

A guest post by Carl Sachs The revised Australian Standard AS1657 for fixed ladders, platforms and walkways released in October 2013 plugs some serious holes. Guard rails made of rubber, for example, are now explicitly unacceptable. While absurd, rubber guard rails technically complied with the 21-year-old AS1657 and the example shows just how sorely an update was needed. Four big changes to AS1657 The biggest changes to AS1657 concern selection, labelling, guardrail testing and the design of fixed ladders.

Chronic asbestos deaths, sudden mining disasters – both indicate deep corporate problems 5

It is less than a week until the premiere of Devil’s Dust, a movie about asbestos in Australia and the corporate maneuverings of James Hardie Industries to minimise its exposure to compensation claims but its lessons spread beyond asbestos to politics, corporate responsibility and individual morality. In a recent article on the movie, the depiction of then New South Wales Premier, Bob Carr, was mentioned.  The politics of asbestos is well shown in the Carr depiction.  The asbestos issue seemed to have little importance until a political value was placed on the issue.  Carr, a Labour Party politician, More…

Principled pragmatism – Human Rights included in OHS Due Diligence 3

On 16 August 2012, Australia’s Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, said in Parliament, in relation to new asbestos management initiatives, that” “On 14 March this year, in my first ministerial statement on workplace health and safety in this place, I said that every Australian who goes to work should return home safely. I know both sides of the House endorse this universal human right and today I reaffirm our commitment to this principle…” (page 13, Hansard. emphasis added) It is very common to hear safety professionals and company executives echo the statement that workers should return home in an uninjured state.  But few would More…