Ergonomics conference provides good, free knowledge 1

The 19thTriennial Congress of the International Ergonomics Association (IEA 2015) is currently running in Melbourne Australia with 900 delegates, of which 600 are from outside Australia.  It offers a fascinating (online) library of ergonomic and occupational health and safety (OHS) research. Below is a sample of the research on offer picked, largely, at random.

It seems unnecessary to state that ergonomics is an essential part of the knowledge base of safety and production but ergonomics still seems to be a “dark art” to many.  This is acknowledged by many in the sector and is summarised well by Ruurd N. Pikaar More…

Penalty rates outweighs workplace bullying 2

The attention given to the recent draft report of the Productivity Commission’s (PC) inquiry into the Workplace Relations Framework has largely died down due to the dismissal of the report by Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.  The industrial relations (IR) elements of the report generally failed to fit the Government’s IR narrative but this did not stop the usual and, probably, pre-prepared media releases from the ideological opponents and supporters.  But did those media releases comment on the recommendations about workplace bullying? Almost entirely – No. So is workplace bullying a non-issue? More…

Safe Work Australia is gearing up for National Safe Work Month Reply

Last year, Safe Work Australia (SWA) gambled on a series of online videos and live events through National Safe Work Month in the form of Virtual Safety Seminars (VSS). VSS provided good online content that continues to be viewed but such a safety communication strategy should stand up to questioning, particularly if it arises from a Government agency.

One of the most important elements of any safety communication strategy is to attempt to measure its success.  The strategy may be aimed at raising awareness of an issue, providing information or promoting a service or product but the important part is to structure the strategy so that it can be measured and for that measurement to occur.  The OHS sector in Australia has a tradition of trying something because it is a good idea and then considering the effort to be a measure of success.  Too many strategies magnify awareness of an issue of which the community is already aware rather than developing a strategy for change, and of tangible change. In some ways the community’s tolerance for awareness over change is starting to wear thin.

With this in mind, SafetyAtWorkBlog posed some questions to Safe Work Australia: More…

Carrillo on leadership and communication Reply

Rosa Carrillo of Carrillo & Associates, describes herself as a “thought leader in transformational leadership for environment, safety and health” with a “unique understanding of safety culture and complex environments”. Prior to her attendance as a keynote speaker at the SIA National Convention in September SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to ask Rosa Carrillo about leadership, trust and communication.

Carrillo is aware of the risk of transferring concepts and practices rather than translating them and tailoring them to local needs. She told SafetyAtWorkBlog:

“I am afraid that one of my core principles is that you can’t just take what someone else did to address human behavior and implement it with “minimal translation” even if it was developed in your own country. You can certainly do that more readily with technology, but even then you must customize its introduction. Most leading edge thinkers in the safety field agree that benchmarking leads you down the rose garden path. You spend lots of money and feel you are doing the right thing until the next disaster emerges.”

More…

SWMS – the infectious safety weed 18

Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) professional, Paul Breslin, is continuing his research into the use and application of the Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) in the construction industry.  His latest paper, recently published in the Journal of Health, Safety and Environment (subscription only) asks an important question:

“If administrative controls are one of the lowest levels of control measures under the hierarchy of control, why has the Safe Work Method Statement become a central element in ensuring safety in the Australian construction industry?”

Breslin’s article title summarises the frustration of many OHS professionals where safety relies on lower order controls of the Hierarchy of Control, such as the administrative controls like SWMS. More…

The exploitation of happiness 4

As the Australian Government analyses the productivity of the workplace it is vital that that analysis reflects the modern workplace and management practice. At the moment Australian workplaces are awash with training programs focusing on resilience and happiness, implying that each individual can change and improve a workplace culture but there has always been an undercurrent of manipulation to these courses and seminars.  A new book by William Davies provides a fresh perspective that, rightly, questions the motives behind this modern trend and provides an important historical context. (For those who can’t purchase the book but want to know more, look at this series of articles)

Davies’s book,  “The Happiness Industry – How the Government and Big Business Sold Us well-Being”“, is a big picture look at the economics and politics of happiness but has direct relevance to the workplace and occupational health and safety (OHS) as well-being and mental health has become increasingly influential in managing workers and their safety. Davies writes that since the 1990s: More…

Is methamphetamine a significant workplace hazard? 5

The Australian Industry Group (AIGroup)  submission to the Australian Government’s Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement inquiry into crystal methamphetamine, commonly known as Ice, has been made publicly available.  The submission focuses on the risks to all workplaces, primarily, by imposing non-work statistics onto the workplace, lumping Ice in with other illicit drugs, and relying on anecdotal evidence. This approach is not unique to AiGroup and can also be seen regularly in the mainstream media but such an important Inquiry requires a much higher quality of evidence than anecdotes.

The submission references a recent Australian Crime Commission (ACC) report into Ice saying it:

“… paints a bleak picture for the community and Australian workplaces. This combined with greater ease of access, including in regional areas, places Australian workplaces at risk.

A key requirement for employers seeking to manage safety risks arising from persons attending work affected by Ice is the ability to conduct workplace drug and alcohol testing.” (page 3)

The ACC report refers almost exclusively to the hazards presented to hospital and emergency staff, not by Ice use by staff, and yet is able to link Ice-affected public to the drug testing of workers. More…

The dichotomy of OHS 3

There are two potentially conflicting approaches to changing the occupational health and safety performance of managers and workers – cultural change or individual inducements. In some ways this reflects a societal dichotomy between the group and the individual, the big picture and the small, employers and workers, white-collar and blue collar, blame the system or blame the worker, and other combinations.

A colleague brought an article by Ross Gittins to this blog’s attention in which Gittins, an economics journalist, criticises key performance indicators and suggests looking at “intrinsic motivations”, based on the work of Jana Gallus. It seems we should be looking at awards rather than rewards. Gallus’s work provides a useful counterpoint or entry point to a recent book called Risky Rewards, written by Andrew Hopkins and Sarah Maslen. More…

Is OHS an invisible science? Reply

On 1 June 2015 Australia’s Radio National broadcast a discussion about the future of work, in support of a Vivid Festival conference. Listening to the discussion through the prism of occupational health and safety (OHS) is an interesting experience as work/life balance is promoted as empowering the individual but, as we know in OHS, individuals often sacrifice their safety for income or deadlines or project demands, contrary to their legislative obligations. The workplace flexibility that many people seek allows the individual to manage the workload and develop or design the working environment. In other terms they establish an unregulated workplace. So what influence will OHS have in these new and emerging workplace configurations? Probably very little.

ABC’s Natasha Mitchell spoke with the curator of the conference Jess Scully. The context seems to be workplace flexibility, primarily, in the creative industries but not exclusively. Mitchell says that this increased flexibility can be seen in an increase in short-term contracts, job insecurity and “inadequate conditions” to which can be added unsafe work environments. More…

ACTU Congress’ draft OHS policies deserve serious analysis 2

Pages from draft-2015-actu-congress-policies-2015-consolidatedThe Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) commences its 2015 Congress this week.  Each year around 800 trade union delegates meet to discuss changes to policies and to develop or refine strategies. This year the ACTU released its draft policies publicly prior to the Congress.  These policies have a long and strong historical and industrial relations context.  Occupational health and safety (OHS) is an important part of these policies and should spark discussions in the union movement and the OHS profession.

Early in the document, the ACTU states its “bargaining agenda” in which is included

“better work, life and family balance.” (page 7)

Curiously, the ACTU has chosen “better” rather than “safe”.  Better is a more inclusive term but harder to define.  Better for whom?  Better could be better paid or more secure or safer.

Trade unionists often see OHS as being monitored and enforced through the mechanism of the Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and would argue that OHS is throughout all the draft policies due to the HSR role but there are more workplaces in Australia without HSRs than with and it is worth considering the policies as independent from the HSR structure, if that is possible.. More…