Annual Reports need OHS engagement 1

Successful safety management relies on communication. Sometimes this is informal, as in prestart meetings or toolbox talks; sometimes it is formal, such as with Annual Reports and legacy documents. It is important for occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals to understand how to communicate in these two formats and to address different audiences and readerships.

The latest Australasian Reporting Awards were handed out last week with the Civil Aircraft Safety Authority garnering the Work Health and Safety Reporting Award for 2015. Safe Work Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, Michelle Baxter, said, about the award:

“By including high quality work health and safety information in your annual report, you can establish your organisation as a leader in work health and safety, one in which work health and safety is not an ‘add on’, but integrated into business decisions and processes.”

In terms of Annual Reports, the OHS professional needs to be involved early in the report writing process rather than, as seems to happen most of the time, leaving it to the company secretary or the Communications unit.  Annual reports need a consistent More…

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…

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…

“Job Quality” progresses OHS thinking 2

On housing affordability this week, Australia’s Treasurer, Joe Hockey, suggested a solution would be to get a “good job”. This occurred a month or so after the publication of a terrific book (that Hockey obviously has yet to read) called “Job Quality in Australia“, edited by Angela Knox and Chris Warhurst for Federation Press. The editors write about the importance of job quality which “…affects attitudes, behaviour and outcomes at the individual, organisational and national level” (page 1) and job quality’s political context:

“While the current Abbott government is primarily concerned with improving Australia’s macro-economic position, such a position is unlikely to be achieved and sustained without a policy agenda focusing on job quality.” (page 2)

Significantly for this blog’s readership, the book has a chapter, written by Michael Quinlan and Philip Bohle, on the impact of organisation on workplace health, safety and wellbeing. More…

New research lays down the challenge on quad bike safety 5

Cover of 24ESV-000144In June 2015 a research report was  presented to a traffic safety conference in Gothenburg, Sweden that is set to reignite the debate on quad bike or all terrain vehicle (ATV) safety in Australia.

The paper entitled “The Australian Terrain Vehicle Assessment Program (ATVAP)” (Paper No.15-0144-W in the Technical Papers section of the conference website) proposes a Star Safety Rating that should be good for consumers and workplace safety but is likely to be hated by the quad bike manufacturers. More…

Agricultural safety case study from Australia Reply

In early June 20915, the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) provided a case study of agricultural safety and the importance of safety culture – Raby Stud, part of Hassad Australia. The study shows great potential but the promotion of this case study would be more convincing if more OHS detail was available and if there was better coordination of its media.

RIRDC emphasised that:

“The injury rate is now close to zero at ‘Raby Stud’, near Warren in New South Wales, thanks to the attitude that ‘it won’t happen to me’ is simply not good enough to ensure everyone gets home safely to their families every night.”


Mixed messages on OHS and productivity Reply

There is a clear link between the modern take on occupational health and safety (which includes psychosocial health) and productivity. However, there are seriously mixed messages coming from the Productivity Commission (PC) in its current inquiry into Australia’s Workplace Relations Framework.

In Senate Estimates on 3 June 2014 (draft Hansard), the Chair of the Productivity Commission, Peter Harris, and Assistant Commissioner, Ralph Lattimore, briefly discussed OHS.  Harris acknowledged that some of the submissions to the current inquiry discussed OHS matters (page 65) but Lattimore stated:

“….we did say that we would quarantine the inquiry away from workforce health and safety issues unless they were directly related to, say, enterprise bargaining or some feature of the relationship between employers and employees. We were aware of the large amount of regulation in that area, and we were not planning to revisit that.”


Factual reporting and the OHS Body of Knowledge 6

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 33

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]


Cancer data needs to start a discussion on effective controls 5

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…