Factual reporting and the OHS Body of Knowledge 4

Pam Pryor,  Registrar, Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board, responds to some issues raised in a recent blog article.

The Safety Institute of Australia and the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board welcomes informed, constructive comment on their activities and on OHS in general.

The paper Reflection on the SIA Ltd professional project and the Body of Knowledge (Pearse, McCosker & Paul, 2015) makes a number of assertions which must be addressed to ensure readers have an accurate understanding of the issues and the discussion. This article addresses just one of these assertions: The OHS Body of Knowledge promotes a narrow technical view of OHS.

While commenting that the reason for the existence of the OHS Body of Knowledge is unclear Pearse et al., also note that there is no industry-wide agreement on the educational requirements to practice as an OHS professional; that there is no unified body of knowledge for OHS; and the evidence base in relatively low and underdeveloped. All comments with which we would agree and also clear reasons for the development of an OHS Body of Knowledge and the discussions which have arisen, and will continue to occur, on what should comprise the OHS Body of Knowledge for Generalist OHS Professionals. More…

Research raises serious questions on SIA’s certification push 30

One of the most contentious issues in Australia’s occupational health and safety (OHS) profession at the moment is the move by the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA)to certify the profession. In the February 2015 issue of the Journal of Health Safety and Environment, Warwick Pearse, Laura McCosker and Gunther Paul researched the SIA’s “professional project” and found it seriously wanting.

The paper “Reflection on the SIA Ltd professional project and the Body of Knowledge” states that the project

“…has the potential to promote a narrow technical view of OHS rather than a wider view which encompasses societal relations of power and politics.”

“The use of the BoK [Body of Knowledge] as a key element in the professional project has the potential to represent OHS as a unified system of knowledge — which it is not.” [link added]

More…

Cancer data needs to start a discussion on effective controls 4

Cover of Cancer Occupational reportThe Cancer Council of Western Australia has released a report (not yet available online)that states:

“The number of occupationally caused cancers compensated each year equates to less than eight per cent of the expected number.” (Executive Summary)

This is an extraordinary statistic but consistent with the history of occupational health and safety (OHS) statistics where the core data originates from compensation figures rather than incident figures.  Cancer has always been a challenge in this area as it can manifest years after exposure or not at all. But this report also provides important data, and a challenge, for OHS professionals and business owners as

“Occupational exposures to carcinogens are estimated to cause over 5,000 new cases of cancer in Australia each year.” (Executive Summary)

The report has an excellent discussion on why such statistics are estimates and the unreliability of previous data in Australia and overseas but there is only a short, but important, discussion about risk and hazard controls – the principle focus for OHS professionals. More…

Beyond auditing for due diligence 4

One of the most significant motivators for changes in safety leadership in the executive circles in Australia has been the obligation to apply due diligence to occupational health and safety (OHS) matters. The obligation has existed for several years now but is still dominated by legal interpretations rather than managerial ones. To support the legal obligations, OHS professionals should look at how they can add value to due diligence.  One way of achieving, and exceeding, compliance of due diligence would be to subject OHS systems and strategies to a peer-review rather than a narrow audit process. More…

Sen. Doug Cameron launches “Hard Work Never Killed Anybody” 1

Cameron 20150507 01On 7 May 2015, Senator Doug Cameron (Australian Labor Party, pictured) launched a new book written by John Bottomley (pictured, centre) called “Hard Work Never Killed Anybody – How the idolisation of work sustains this deadly lie“. Cameron acknowledged the uniqueness of the book as ranging

“…across, theology, Marxism, the Protestant work ethic, and the Enlightenment.”

This combination is rare in the field of occupational health and safety but Cameron said that Bottomley provides evidence that

“…the promise of industrialised society that hard work brings its own rewards is a lie”

and that this is a necessary and important challenge to the current political consensus. More…

Uninspiring discussion on OHS in Tasmania’s Parliament Reply

On 28 April 2015, the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, the Legislative Assembly of the Tasmanian Parliament discussed the significance of that day as a Matter of Public Importance. The discussion cannot be described as a debate but it does provide some insight to the ideologies of the political parties in that Parliament, which is almost a microcosm of Australian politics, and the general quality of understanding of occupational health and safety (OHS) management.

One of the fundamental pieces of information for such a day would be an accurate number of workplace fatalities. The Leader of the Opposition, Bryan Green (Australian Labor Party), made a basic faux pas by stating that the total number of workplace fatalities for 2014 was 44 when the figure was for deaths occurring in 2015 (the official figure for 2015 is now 51).  Later that evening, he corrected himself saying that this did not change his argument about the importance of inspectors but it does, and it was embarrassing.

Green listed the number of inspectors lost from Workplace Standards (WorkSafe Tasmania), Tasmania’s OHS regulator. The inspection capacity of an OHS regulator is relevant to any discussion on OHS but Green overstates the role of the regulator, as most Labor Party and trade union speakers do.  OHS and Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws clearly state it is the employer of Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) who has the principal OHS duty.  Workers have a similar responsibility.  The regulator is not a dutyholder for anyone other than its own employees according to WorkSafe Tasmania’s Guide to WHS Act. More…

Standing workstations – useful, fad or salesmanship? 7

Over the last week Australian media has been reporting on office workers using standing workstations. Given sedentary working has been shown to have negative health effects, standing seems sensible as it increases mobility but is it enough to stand?  Or is this recent media attention just another example of shallow writing on occupational health and safety matters, or even media manipulation?

An article in the Canberra Times (which appeared in other Fairfax publications around 17 April 2015) states that:

“…health and ergonomics experts say the benefits to overall health for standing-up workers is irrefutable..”

and

“Some also believe it makes workers more productive…”

The article then quotes the head of office supplies and furniture from an office furniture retailer, Jim Berndells of Officeworks.  Its next expert is another retailer of furniture, Office Workstations and its managing director Jovan Vucetic.  The attention granted to these retailers along with a mention of the price of a standing workstation and the companies that Vucetic has supplied, seems to imply that the article is less about OHS than about product information.

(It may be relevant that Vucetic’s LinkedIn profile shows that in 2012 he was running an Ebay company and that he continues to operate JOVAN Imedia, which he describes as an “affiliate marketing business”, alongside his workstations business.) More…

Union backflip on drug testing presents huge opportunity for change 1

In late March 2015, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) dropped its objection to drug and alcohol (D&A) testing on Australian construction sites.  There seems to be several reasons for this change and the evidence for D&A testing of construction workers remains scant but the opportunity for enormous change on this public health and occupational hazard should not be missed. More…

Safety in Asia – a brief dip into OHS in Malaysia 7

Recently I spoke at the Safety Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur.  The summit or rather a conference had around 50 delegates and was held in a small conference room in a good hotel near the centre of the city.  The delegates were from a range of industries – maritime, power generation, construction and others. I learnt that there was much that Westerners could share wimageith Malaysian OHS professionals but that the sharing would be much quicker and more meaningful if we knew more about the Asian situation before proposing our suggestions and solutions. More…

OHS professionals should be more politically active 6

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is inextricably linked to everyday life and everyday politics but it is treated as somehow separate, even by those who are experts in OHS.  This is not the case with industrial relations which is much more grounded in the political realities.

Industrial relations has been pushed by the trade union movement that has always seen workers’ rights as a social issue.  The OHS profession and its associations have been content, largely, to live within the factory fence.  Until recently OHS laws related solely to the workplace and OHS professionals had the luxury of a clear demarcation for its operations.

But new OHS laws acknowledge the responsibility for the effects of work on those other than workers, and those who are neighbours to workplaces.  Australian OHS professionals have been slow to embrace the social role that has been foisted on them.  There seems no excuse for this.

Recently, a hearing of an Australia Senate Committee spoke with the CEO of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, Peter Tighe.  The discussion illustrated some of the social, political and economic risks of this long-known workplace hazard. More…