There is a logic being applied to workplace safety and public policy that does not ring true. The argument seems to be that productivity levels in Australia are low, that part of the reason for this low productivity is excessive business paperwork and that workplace safety regulators are a major contributor. (SafetyAtWorkBlog has written around this topic previously.)
The authority on productivity in Australia is, unsurprisingly, the Productivity Commission (PC). In mid-June 2013, the commission released its Productivity Update, the first of promised annual reports. Search in the document for “workplace safety” and there is no mention, even “safety” only pulls up a couple of public safety references. Nothing for “workplace” either.
In fact, the report states that
“Strong growth in labour productivity in the December quarter of 2012-13 could be a sign that a broader improvement in MFP growth is now underway” (page 2)
“modelling shows that a comparatively small increase in the rate of labour productivity growth (primarily due to higher MFP growth) could lead to a comparatively large increase in the level of real GDP per person by 2050.” (page 2)
2050 is a long way off but the forecast is for an increase in productivity and the growth in the December quarter could indicate a trend. So for all the productivity gloom and doom being written about in the business newspapers, the reality may be different. More…
Safe Work Australia has released its latest draft code of practice for preventing and responding to workplace bullying for public comment. There are many useful and practical strategies in the draft code but workplace bullying is only a small element of the more sustainable strategy of developing a safe and respectful organisational culture.
The definition in the May 2013 draft code is a tidied up version of the September 2011 definition:
“…repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.”
The lack of difference in these definitions is a real positive given the complaints, primarily, from the business community since 2011. The significance in both definitions is that there must be a direct relationship between the behaviours and health and safety risks. This could be substantially difficult to prove, particularly if , as in most cases, it is the recipient of the bullying who needs to prove this.
Consider, for a moment, that this code of practice is used for establishing preventative measures and not just used for disproving a court case, these definitions can help establish a benchmark for creating a safe organisational culture. More…
Several SafetyAtWorkBlog articles recently have had record readership statistics. One of particular note concerned gender issues in the workplace. On 9 June 2013, Marie-Claire Ross wrote about her experiences with gender bias in the workplace and, in particular, its existence in the safety profession.
This reminded me of two documents I recently read about gender and safety. The April 2013 edition of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management (AJOEM)devoted an entire edition of the magazine to gender issues.This is a useful counterpoint to the SafetyAtWorkBlog article as emergency management remains a male-dominated culture.
This edition of AJOEM includes the following snippets.
While investigating communications, Dr Christine Owen’s research revealed
“…cultural challenges to team communication and specifically a masculinist culture (i.e. acting with high confidence and bravado).” More…
Last week the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) released a review of the WorkHealth program. The results are very positive and deserve detailed analysis. However these analyses do not seem to address all the expectations of the Victorian Government when the program was launched several years ago.
Premier John Brumby said at the launch of WorkHealth that
“Over time the program is expected to free up $60 million per year in health costs, as well as:
- Cut the proportion of workers at risk of developing chronic disease by 10 per cent;
- Cut workplace injuries and disease by 5 per cent, putting downward pressure on premiums;
- Cut absenteeism by 10 per cent; and
- Boost productivity by $44 million a year.”
One of the key findings of the research seems to meet two of the program’s aims:
“Modelling of outcome forecast goals for a 10% reduction in absenteeism and a 5% reduction in compensable injury rates are likely to be met, especially as health promotion program uptake increases.” (page 5)
It is reasonable to expect from a 4-5 year study of hundreds of thousands of work health checks that hard data be obtained but as the quote above reveals, the researchers needed to apply modelling and draw on research from other sources. More…
The Building Safety conference this weekend had one or two underwhelming speakers but these were overshadowed by some brilliant presentations, and by brilliant, I mean challenging. I had no indication of what was to come from the presentation by Dr Dean Laplonge on gender. His presentation has caused me to begin to reassess my own (male) perceptions and those of the safety profession.
The title of this article is a Monty Python reference where a professor from England joins the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Woolloomooloo. He is inducted into the faculty by being told the rules and he even has his name changed to Bruce. This sketch is a good example of humour through hyperbole but over the decades this sketch has become more disturbing as, amongst others, it shows a gender perspective of the early 1970s that, in some industries, still echoes.
The first international speaker at this weekend’s Building Safety conference in Canberra, Australia was Rita Donahy, author of the One Death Is Too Many report into the UK’s construction industry safety performance, and a member of the House of Lords.
Donahy stressed that workplace safety is, and should be, a social issue and not treated as a special case.
In May 2013 Fiona Austin (@upfrontfi) a lawyer with the Australian law firm, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), tweeted:
“Great win in the Supreme Court! No more naming and shaming for health and safety offenders in Queensland”
The Supreme Court decision is an appalling situation over which OHS professionals and regulators should be outraged.
Austin and other HSF lawyers authored a longer article on the case and totally miss the point of why OHS offenders should be named. Shaming of offenders is a different matter.
The article explains how a decision under the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld) may stop the OHS regulator in Queensland, Work Health and Safety Queensland, from listing the names of offenders on its website. More…
This week in Australia the conservative Liberal Party released its much-anticipated industrial relations policy. Most commentary is that the policy is thin but in terms of occupational health and safety, the Liberal Party is supportive of the changes made concerning workplace bullying. Sadly, the commentary is often lazy.
One example of a careless headline is in the Herald Sun newspaper for 11 May 2013, “$20 million Budget boost to stop workplace bullying“. The Australian Government’s changes to the Fair Work Act do not prevent bullying, it only provides further options for remedy. OHS is principally about preventing harm and the Fair Work Act changes do not help in this aim. More…
Just over a week after Australia’s national safety authority, Safe Work Australia, slammed the quad bike and all terrain vehicle manufacturers over shortsightedness on safety, Honda MPE has sent legal correspondence to an Australian manufacturer of crush protection devices (CPD), Quadbar Industries, over the wording of a sticker.
In the letter Peter Cash of Norton Rose Australia says that his client HondaMPE believes that a sticker on each Quadbar identified as a “compliance plate” may misled or deceive “members of the public and, in particular, prospective purchasers of your device”, and potential purchasers of Honda quad bikes.
The wording of the sticker is:
Certification/ fitment contact
Manufacturer 118 Industries
7 Margaret St Clifton, Qld Aust. More…
The May 2013 National Safety magazine has an article on safety leadership by Australia lawyer, Michael Tooma. It is a terrific article but it also highlights the lack of case studies of the practical reality of safety leadership in Australia and the great distance still required to improve safety. Tooma starts the article with
“It is widely recognised that strong safety leadership is integral to work, health and safety performance in any organisation.” [emphasis added]
Later he writes
“There is little doubt that safety leadership is a prerequisite to a positive safety culture in any organisation.”
These equivocations may indicate authorial caution on the part of Michael Tooma but they could illustrate that the role of safety leadership still remains open to question. More…