Safety learnings from construction 10

Kevin Jones 2015

The author onsite earlier this year

I have recently finished some years of full-time work as a safety adviser on a range of construction projects in Australia and below is a list of some of what I have learnt (in no particular order).

Ask questions

People may initially think you are an idiot but, if you are genuinely interested, they will explain what they are doing (usually with some pride in their tone) and offer suggestions of how to do it better or safer.

Follow through

If you have said that you will look into an issue or provide additional information, do it. If you do not, your credibility with the worker you were talking with and, likely, their supervisor and workmates, is gone. More…

Building a better future but maybe not a safer one Reply

Cover of ACTU Blueprint 2015The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has a strong commitment to safe and healthy workplaces in Australia and would likely assert that nothing is more important than the safety of workers. However the latest submission to government on economic and social reform, “Building a Better Future – a Strong Economy for All” (not yet available online), has missed the chance to bring occupational health and safety (OHS) into the current policy debate on economic and productivity reforms. More…

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 1

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.”


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…