Beware the power of words Reply

Occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals are being encouraged to think differently about safety and to focus on the positives instead of the failures, the leads instead of the lags. This needs to be supported by how we describe workplace incidents and in this context the profession can learn from one aspect of the debate on family violence in which Australia is currently engaged.

One example is available in this article from Women’s Agenda.  In it Editor Jane Gilmore writes about how the death of a women, murdered by a man, was described poorly by a newspaper.  The headline removes the perpetrator from the action. More…

OHS is in sports but by another name 4

After writing a recent article about the relevance of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws to sporting clubs, I attended a sports medicine seminar to access a different perspective on workplace safety.

2015-09-21 18.43.15Having never played sports outside the obligatory high school activities, which in my high school also included snooker?!, the world of locker rooms and team sports is foreign.  But earlier this week I learnt that where OHS professionals talk about productivity, sportspeople speak of performance, and where factories address line speed, sports physicians talk of load management.  I also learnt that professional sportspeople are exempt from workers’ compensation. More…

Death from a well-known hazard – culture is only part of the answer 1

Cover of cif-cole-cb-20150911A coronial finding in Queensland in September 2015 illustrates how daily activities can lead to tragedy but also the role of safety culture.

According to one media report, in investigating the 2009 death of 24-year-old Cameron Cole who was hit as a pipe rack fell from a truck, the Queensland Coroner, Terry Ryan, found that

“…the semi-trailer had been over packed, not properly secured and there was no exclusion zone around the vehicle when the load was being released.”

From this event the Coroner makes many recommendations about the safety management of work practices at that time.  Many of these reflect common work practices that exist to this day on many Australian worksites. More…

FIFO mental health challenges the way we do business 4

cover of Final Report w signature for website(2)An article on the occupational health and safety (OHS) risks of Australia’s Fly In – Fly Out (FIFO) workers has been on this blog’s agenda for a long time but the final report into the mental health of FIFO workers released in June 2015 by the Western Australian government summarises many of the hazards. A close look at the recommendations illustrates many of the general problems of addressing mental health issues in workplaces. More…

Safety is missing from the political lexicon Reply

At the moment in Australia, a political debate is gathering momentum over the creation of jobs at the expense of the environment. This, largely, ideological argument is an example of free market vs regulation and short-term vs sustainability in the context of job creation.  In 2013, this blog noted the absence of “Safety” in the jobs debate, a similar omission to the current debate. More…

Conversation about work-related grief Reply

Recently SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to spend some time with Bette Phillips-Campbell, the Manager of GriefWork, a unit of the Creative Ministries Network in Melbourne.  GriefWork provides a range of support services to families of those who have died at work or due to work factors.

The conversation touches on issues including

  • how GriefWork operates and is funded,
  • work-related suicide,
  • worker memorials,
  • the application of restorative justice in the workplace context,
  • how a workplace death affects company executives,

The interview can be accessed at Bette Phillips Interview 2015

If you want more information about GriefWork or how you may be able to help this service, please contact Bette on (61) 03 9692 9427 or by email.

Kevin Jones

Coronial findings and research – another step on the rocky road 7

cover of Final_Summary_Report4-QBPP_Test_Results_Concl_Recom_Jan-2015The final report into quadbike safety has finally been released by the University of New South Wales in a series of five papers and in the wake of Queensland coronial findings into nine quadbike-related deaths. (A New South Wales inquiry is currently underway)

It has been a rocky road to get to this report as a search of this blog will show but the recommendations are solid with many already being flagged by various safety regulators and others requiring much more consultation. The trick will be to accept the evidence and progress safety – not likely on the experience of the last four years. More…

Learning safety and leadership from drama 1

Fukushima playMost professionals, including occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals, support the use of stories or narratives or case studies to explain complex scenarios and situations.  Recently, at the ProSafe 2015 conference in Melbourne, acting and theatrical skills were used to illustrate the humanity behind the nuclear disaster of Fukushima.

To the uninitiated this may sound like quantitative risk assessment of underground mining being explained through interpretative dance by bandicoots, but the actors in the Fukushima disaster scenario were captivating and the power of theatre, even in this small-scale and on a conference podium, was powerful, stimulating and engaging. And with a Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle operating in South Australia, super-topical. More…

Stanley’s story is powerful and unforgettable 2

Recently I was telling a colleague to temper their online video strategy and consider extracting the audio tracks from which a podcast strategy coud be developed. The advantage of podcasts is they can be listened to, be more portable, less distraction and, I think, can be more powerful. Earlier this week I listened to a Canadian podcast/documentary about the familial and social effects of a workplace death in the 1950s.

What can you tell me about Stanley?” is not a contrived plea for greater focus on workplace fatalities, as we often get from occupational health and safety regulators.  It is a snippet of family history, a painful and secret family history about the death of an uncle and a brother in a steel mill in the 1950s.  The  podcast looks at coronial records, company records, notes taken at the time by Stanley’s brother and shows that shame that many feel around workplace deaths now, existed then.

I listened to the podcast several days ago but I shiver now when I recall some of the pain and surprise that the family experienced.

“What Can You Tell Me About Stanley” can be listened to as a straight tale of a workplace death and the way such an incident was perceived in the 1950s.  But just as importantly, this should convince people of the power of simplicity in storytelling and social media.  The documentary obviously took months to put together and the revelations to the family are clearly not linear but this effort provides a fascinating 30 minutes for your attention.

Think of Stanley when you are applying your OHS skills.  You’ll be better for it.

Kevin Jones

The ripple effect of workplace suicides 5

Suicide is a reality in many workplaces.  Work may exacerbate the stresses and psychological conditions leading to people thinking of suicide and it can create those stresses.  Most workers at risk of suicide show signs of distress, just as all workplaces show signs like near misses, but these signs are often not recognised. Mates in Construction is one program that teaches the recognition of these signs after an increasing suicide rate but Australian farmers are also killing themselves.  This reality has generated The Ripple Effect program to, initially, raise awareness of the risks and to de-stigmatise suicide and psychological issues. More…