Case studies and research on gender in workplace safety 1

Engineering Student Marking BlueprintsSeveral 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…

WorkHealth raises health awareness but only so far 1

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.

Cover of workhealth_synthesis_reportPremier 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…

“Rule #1 – No Poofters” 11

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.

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Rita Donahy speaks at Australia’s Building Safety conference Reply

Donahy 2013 01The 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.
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Supreme Court decision limits public knowledge of OHS offences 9

Woman CelebratingIn 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…

Prevention of harm is lost in the debate over workplace bullying 4

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.

VWA+0518+28x5+Bullying+A3+PosterMedia Misunderstanding

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…

HondaMPE sends lawyer’s letter to Australian manufacturer of safety devices 7

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.

Norton Rose Letter to QuadbarIn 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:

“COMPLIANCE PLATE

Certification/ fitment contact

Manufacturer 118 Industries

http://www.quadbar.com

7 Margaret St Clifton, Qld Aust. More…

Is safety leadership the panacea for unsafe workplaces? 6

National Safety Cover May 2013The 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…

Safe Work Australia vs Quad Bike Manufacturers 7

The chair of Safe Work Australia, Rex Hoy, makes an extraordinary challenge to the manufacturers of quad bikes.  In a media statement released on 26 April 2013, he

“…has called on the designers and manufacturers of quad bikes to urgently reconsider improving the design of quad bikes so they are not prone to roll over.”

Quad bike Say Safety_v151_04_10This sounds a sensible and safe suggestion but independent Australian research is still to be completed on whether these work vehicles are prone to roll over as a result of their design, and not simply driver (mis)behaviour.

Hoy notes that people continue to die whilst riding quad bikes and is quoted saying:

“We cannot sit by and watch people being killed and seriously injured by these vehicles. Everyone has a responsibility for quad bike safety but it must involve a safer product. We need to ask ourselves how much a life is worth opposed to the cost of a crush protection device.”

Quad bike designers and manufacturers have been emphatic in their position that rollovers are, primarily, the fault of driver behaviour and that crush protection devices are likely to contribute to rollovers or exacerbate worker injuries from rollovers. More…

An OHS look at the Liberal Party’s policy document 3

Following on from a look at the workplace safety-related elements of the current policy document of the Australian Labor Party, it is the Liberal Party of Australia‘s turn.

PressPhoto tony abbott

Liberal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott

The Liberals, currently lead by Tony Abbott, are the Australian equivalent of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom and the Republicans in the United States and follow many of the free market principles that support capitalism. In terms of workplace safety, commitments are less obvious than those from the Left side of politics.  Often workplace safety is wrapped in other concepts and there is an expectation that benefits to workers will somehow flow on from those benefits granted to employers and business, benefits frequently termed as part of productivity.

The Liberal’s policy document entitled: Our Plan, Real Solutions for All Australians lists the following productivity improvements: More…