Any professional sees elements of their profession in other walks of life. Police notice infringements when they are off duty. Teachers often continue to instruct or educate when outside of school. Journalist’s conversations with friends often contain pointed questions.
Safety professionals, commonly, extend safety principles to their own behaviours and lives. This can sometimes lead to a heightened intolerance of unsafe behaviour in others but also desires that life operated on safety principles. Today I wondered about the application of the concept of “Reasonably Practicable” in prioritising corporate and personal safety objectives.
I simplified (bastardised, some may say) the Safe Work Australia guideline on reasonably practicable into questions that we should ask in our non-OHS lives but, most importantly, the priority of the reasonable practicable process is retained. The questions, in order of priority are:
- How important is it?
- How harmful could it be?
- What do we know about it?
- How can we control it?
- How much will it cost?
Self-help aficionados may see these as life lessons or criteria that can be applied to many decisions. I agree to some extent but the priority of the questions is of most importance in the decision-making process because it places the issue of cost last. More…
In 2010 the New South Wales Mines Safety Advisory Council (MSAC) released its important Digging Deeper report, proving this industry sector is at the forefront of safety management innovation in Australia. This month MSAC provided an insight into “world-leading” safety with its report “Actions for World-leading Work Health and Safety to 2017“.
The report discusses five strategic areas for attention but of more interest is the elements that MSAC believes represents “world-leading WHS”:
The Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) is drawing considerable attention to a recent research report into the actions of patients after medical practitioners ( a general practitioner or GP in Australian parlance) have identified a work-related illness. The research is unique and instructive and indicates areas that require more analysis.
According to the media release on the research:
“ISCRR’s Chief Research Officer, Dr Alex Collie, who conceived the research, said that over 22 per cent of workers didn’t make compensation claims even though their GP had determined that the illness was work-related.” (link added)
Dr Collie continues:
“There are a number of reasons we are seeing work-related conditions not being claimed.. More…
As the relevance of Leadership encroaches on the workplace safety discipline, so do supportive concepts and techniques such as transformational conversations. There is little doubt that such concepts are applicable to improving safety management and worker safety, even if, to some extent, these concepts are old wisdom rebranded into modern lingo. Safety conversations can, and should, be transformational but don’t think that this type of conversation is new or unique.
Transformational conversations have been integral elements of the language used by OHS consultants, and small business people, (and frauds) all the time, mostly subconsciously. By answer the phone or asking ”how can I help?” you indicate that you are available to be supportive and helpful. It also throws the emphasis back on the customer/employer to be more forthcoming with information and reinforces that you are not providing/imposing solutions but helping the client to develop or refine the solutions themselves.
This is a crucial element of OHS law that the business community still struggles to appreciate. More…
On 12 July 2012, SafetyAtWorkBlog described Moira Rayner as the “stand out speaker at the public hearing into workplace bullying conducted in Melbourne Australia. She was always on topic and spoke of her own experience of being accused of bullying. The Hansard record of that hearing is now available online and deserves some analysis to illustrate Rayner’s points but to also to expand our understanding of workplace bullying and the Committee’s operation.
As a representative of the Law Institute of Victoria, Moira Rayner, questioned the existing definition of workplace bullying favoured by Australian OHS regulators and said that the definition requires case studies and examples of workplace bullying so that people understand the application of the definition in reality. Many case studies are available in the bullying/OHS/HR literature but these are rarely communicated to community except by labour lawyers through bulletins or by media releases from OHS regulators that rarely gain attention beyond the media editors.
Rayner addressed the confusion in the workplace bullying definition from its reliance on “unreasonableness”:
“It seems to me that unreasonableness or the claimed reasonable purpose of the behaviour needs to be, again, spelled out. You hit on the crux of the matter, Madam Chair, when you say that it is More…
Garry Brack is the head of the Australian Federation of Employers and Industries (AFEI), formerly known as Employers First which summarises the industrial philosophy of the organisation. In the past he has stated that OHS laws are not necessary but this week he has upset the parents of Brodie Panlock by emphasising a failed love affair between Brodie and a work colleague and downplaying the instances of abuse and bullying that drove Brodie Panlock to jump to her death.
The comments on the ABC Lateline program echo his comments at the public hearing in Sydney of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying. (The Hansard of his presentation is not yet available online although the AFEI submission to the inquiry is) Brack’s position is difficult to understand as the Inquiry submission and his words at the hearing display a poor understanding of how other organisations and experts (and Brodie’s parents) see workplace bullying.
The AFEI submission says
“What concerns employers is the breadth of these [bullying] definitions which allow a limitless range of actions and behaviour to be construed as bullying by workers – in all jurisdictions. This is where the regulatory difficulty lies. It is not that there are differences in regulatory requirements but that compliance is impossible to achieve. This is because the concept of workplace bullying, as viewed by regulators, is not confined to recklessness, intimidation, aggressive or violent acts, threatening actions or behaviour, verbal abuse or an actual risk to health and safety. It may be anything from a customer demanding faster service or just complaining (even over the phone) to setting deadlines or changing work hours.”
There are several nonsensical statements here. The Parliamentary Inquiry is not an investigation of regulations, it is an inquiry into workplace bullying. More…
There have been many calls in Australia for a national definition of workplace bullying. Apparently the definition below that has applied in OHS legislation for over ten years in Victoria is insufficient:
“Repeated unreasonable behaviour directed toward a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.”
The definition above was the one used in the first draft Code of Practice on Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying produced by Safe Work Australia in September 2011.
The definition was questioned by Moira Rayner, as a representative of the Law Institute of Victoria, at recent public hearings into workplace bullying. Researchers said that a lack of a national definition is a major reason that research in workplace bullying has been so thin.
A quick survey of workplace bullying definitions in Australia is listed below:
“Unreasonable and inappropriate workplace behaviour includes bullying, which comprises behaviour which More…
Just before Christmas in 2009, Dr Yossi Berger speculated for an information network about the safety of quad bikes. He called it QuadWatch. Over two years later, on 13 July 2012, Australia’s Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten announced his own QuadWatch.
In the 2009 Croaky Blog, Dr Berger suggested
“a network could be called QuadWatch and it would become a clearing house for all needs related to quad bikes, particularly in relation to safety standards. All training needs, advice about accessories, advice about the correct machine for a certain job or terrain could be handled by such regional cells.”
Shorten described the new QuadWatch as
“… a community based network bringing together farmers, community groups, emergency services and local government.
Shorten’s QuadWatch is broadly consultative but is a little different in its communication strategy. Establishing websites in support of a political strategy have not had the greatest success in the last few years under the Federal Labor Government and QuadWatch is not the end point in the safety debate.
It is worth deconstructing the Minister’s media release a little.
The Melbourne public hearing in support of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying has concluded after over an hour of personal impact statements that were confronting, saddening but, overall, defiant.
The hearing began more sedately and predictable. The employers’ association, ACCI, says that workplace bullying is a broad social issue that needs broad social control measure. In rough translation, “it’s not our problem”. The employers also see everything in terms of industrial relations so prevention of harm rarely features in recommendations.
The ACTU stressed that workplace bullying IS a workplace issue and therefore should be principally “managed” under occupational health and safety laws. More…
Next week Australia holds public hearings into the issue of workplace bullying. Currently the House Standing Committee on Education and Employment has not yet made any submissions publicly available which handicaps the value of the public hearings for observers but the Trade Unions have released their submissions. Generally, the suggestions for control measures are progressive but the submissions also indicate the extent of the challenge in “controlling” workplace bullying and some of the challenges facing this inquiry.
The ACTU claims that workplace bullying was given national prominence following a survey of union members in 2000 but that survey is not representative of the broader Australian community and should be treated with caution. The ACTU submission seeks support for its survey results from more authoritative sources such as Safe Work Australia and the Productivity Commission. But neither of these sources indicates workplace bullying to be as big an issue as the ACTU claims.
Safe Work Australia’s figures, quoted by the ACTU , say that in
“In 2007/08, 26% of accepted workers compensation claims for mental stress in Australia resulted in 26 or more weeks off work.”
The significance in this quote is that bullying is not mentioned and if one accepts that bullying is a subset of mental stress and psychosocial hazards, bullying should be only a fraction of the 26% figure. It is also the case that it is common for victims of bullying to eliminate the hazard through resignation rather than lodge workers’ compensation claims. So one metric may indicate a low bullying rate but another indicates a “hidden” rate. Accurate measurement, the accumulation of evidence, is a major problem in any study of workplace bullying and is a major challenge for this Parliamentary Inquiry. More…