Defining safety culture is still a tricky proposition. Definitions can vary from what Global Safety Index quotes:
‘the product of individual and group values, attitudes and beliefs, competencies and patterns of behaviour that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organisation’s health and safety management’.
to the, arguably more functional, definition of
‘the way you work when nobody’s looking”.
Safety culture comprises a mix of personal values, corporate values, laws, norms, expectations, hopes, respect, dignity, care, amongst others. By assessing and linking these elements it should be possible to map or pictorialise a company’s safety culture.
Several years ago at a Comcare conference in Canberra, one speaker outlined leadership and safety culture of some sections of the public service in web, spider or radar graphs (example above). The image stuck with me, particularly after additional sets of data allowed for animation to show the evolution of culture and leadership in relation to specific interventions. The importance of being able to provide a visual image of safety culture should not be understated. More…
The harmonisation of Australia’s occupational health and safety (OHS) laws has stagnated since the West Australian government’s tepid response to the strategy and Victoria’s belligerent and ill-founded rejection. But some continue to examine the harmonisation process. Eric Windholz is one of those researchers.
Windholz is a former executive of Victoria’s WorkSafe and is now with the Monash Centre or Regulatory Studies and is writing his thesis on OHS harmonisation (to be available soon through the Monash Library). Windholz acknowledges the political context of harmonisation, a context he describes as “contentious”.
The political maneuvering of various stakeholders in the harmonisation process deserves additional study. The harmonisation, or even national uniformity, of safety has occurred over a similar period in Australia with other industry sectors, most noticeably in rail. It is a strategy that was started by the conservative government of John Howard, embraced by the Australian Labor Party through its various prime ministerial incarnations and is now stagnant or even ignored. More…
On September 9 2013, the Canberra Times published an article by Bill Eddy, entitled “Bullying a practice for the whole workplace to solve“. (The article has been tweeted and referenced several times in the past week in Australia.) Bill Eddy is due in Australia soon to conduct a workshop on workplace bullying. The article has some sound advice on workplace bullying but what caught my attention was the opening line:
“Research indicates that workplace bullying has a more negative effect on employees than sexual harassment, perhaps because there are more procedures in place for dealing with sexual harassment.”
What research? More…
In the next edition of the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), Dr Tony Lower, Director of Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety and Monash University researchers ( Angela J Clapperton and Emily L Herde) will be providing more evidence about the death and injury rate associated with the use of All-Terrain Vehicles (ATV) and quadbikes. A unique feature of this study is that “it is the first Australian study quantifying injuries from three different data sources.”
This research is timely as only last week a Tasmanian court case was occurring over a quad bike incident on a dairy farm. According to a newspaper report on the case:
“Defence counsel Glynn Williams told magistrate Michael Brett that quad bikes were inherently unsafe and unstable…. [and]
“There is ongoing carnage on farms and while the government can legislate to make stronger and stronger dog laws there is no willingness to legislate for stronger quad bike laws”
According to a media statement on the MJA paper due for release on 16 September 2013, Lower says:
“As the data indicates not only are there increasing numbers of quad cases, they are also more serious than other similar injuries. Further, because of their threat to life, they will frequently require higher levels of medical treatment and longer recovery periods for the victims.”
“The impact of deaths and serious injuries from quad bikes is significant and I am sure everyone would like to see a decrease in these incidents.”
This weekend the Australian people voted for the conservative Liberal Party to be the next Federal government. Workplace safety has been largely absent from the pre-election campaign but when it has been mentioned it has almost always been couched in terms of productivity. In the next few years, workplace safety issues must be couched in terms of productivity to have any hope of gaining the ear of the new government and, particularly, the ear of Senator Eric Abetz, the most likely candidate for the ministry of workplace relations.
Recent changes to workplace bullying laws which provide a prominent role of the Fair Work Commission are unlikely to be rolled back but Abetz has promised More…
On September 3 2013 I will be on a panel in Sydney discussing issues associated with working at heights. Below is a media release (not yet available online) about the panel and some recent data on working at heights risks. The quotes are mine.
Inaction by policy makers is putting lives at risk and now, says a peak safety industry body, there are the numbers to prove it.
The Working At Heights Association (WAHA) will host a crisis summit on Tuesday at The Safety Show Sydney, where it will reveal that one in three roof anchors are unfit for use. Of the 3245 anchors audited by association members over the last three months, 2260 were deemed unusable.
Part of the problem, says WAHA secretary Gordon Cadzow, has been the lack of awareness of the number of inadequate safety systems on Australia’s rooftops.
For some time the Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has been plagued with accusations of bullying and harassment. A researcher began court action in 2011. An anonymous website “Victims of CSIRO” was established in 2012 and provides a timeline of disgruntlement for back as far as 2002. In May 2012, Liberal politician Sophie Mirabella, raised the issue of bullying in criticism of the then Prime Minister, Julia Gillard. In July 2012, Comcare issued an Improvement Notice to CSIRO following an investigation
”thoroughly reviewing the workplace systems relating to the prevention and management of bullying behaviour at CSIRO”.
In September 2012, CSIRO whistleblowers spoke of bullying. The CSIRO Staff Association reported anecdotal evidence of increased bullying and harassment in late 2012.
In August 2013 HWL Ebsworth released the independent report (the Pearce report) which, according to the CSIRO, found
“no major or widespread issues with unreasonable behaviour or bullying in CSIRO”.
How does that work? More…
Australian Academic Press has forwarded a bullying article, written by Stephen May, that links together many of the themes of its authors with the topicality of recent statements on schoolyard bullying by the Queensland Attorney General, Jarrod Bleijie. The statements on schoolyard bullying seem reasonable and bullying at school is an established hazard but extrapolating these to the workplace is a questionable leap. Thankfully Australian Academic Press’ list has workplace bully texts.
“Young bullies who don’t learn why such behaviour is wrong will likely remain as bullies into adulthood.”
This statement reflects a common assumption but fails to consider the dramatically different legislative, organisational, cultural, social and personal differences between school and work. Schools have a different type of duty of care that requires nurturing, encouragement and psychological development. The teachers, the equivalent of managers or workplace supervisors, have more of a mentoring role than exists in most workplaces. The relationships are less Jedi and Padawan and more colleagues or, in some industries, mates.
On 12 July 2013 the Australian Drug Foundation reported that alcohol use is responsible for:
- five per cent of all Australian workplace deaths, and
- up to 11 per cent of non-fatal injuries.
These figures should be of great concern to everyone but what if these figures generate no concern and no outrage, and no change?
The significance of the research data above and in the full document – Workplace alcohol and other drug programs: What is good practice? – is not in the research but in the potential responses to the research. More…
This week a Queensland Coroner brought down the findings into the deaths of three men, Matthew Fuller (25), Rueben Barnes (16) and Mitchell Sweeney (22). Each of these men were electrocuted whilst installing foil insulation in the roofs of Queensland houses as part of a Federally funded economic stimulus project during 2009 and 2012.
Since the Coroner’s findings were published on 4 July 2013, the Australian media has focussed its attention, principally, on Kevin Rudd. Rudd was the Prime Minister and a major motivator at the time for the stimulus package, named the Home Insulation Program or HIP by the Coroner. Rudd recently regained the Prime Ministership providing a fresh political newsworthiness to the HIP issues. But in this attention, the Coroner’s broad findings are often being overlooked. More…