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…
Professor Andrew Hopkins‘ frequent appearances at safety conferences are always fascinating as he does not simply trot out the same presentation each time. He is certainly not a priest with the same 52 sermons each year.
At the Building Safety conference Hopkins spoke briefly about mindfulness but grounded this in how executives and others should inspect a worksite and what questions to ask. He discussed audits also but there will be more on that in another article.
Hopkins insisted that executives should show leadership and begin to satisfy their positive OHS duty and their due diligence obligations by walking their worksites, talking with their workers and, most importantly, listening to the answers. There are no hard and fast rules or guidelines on the frequency of these visits but he said that the executives should NOT be accompanied. Having a phalanx of execs in pristine PPE approaching a work group puts the workers on guard and makes them self-conscious. 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…
In November 2012, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government released “Getting Home Safely“, a damning report written by Lynette Briggs and Mark McCabe, into the safety culture and performance of that territory’s building and construction industry. But the Master Builders Association of the ACT has rejected several recommendations and questioned many others, yet refuses to release the evidence that it is assumed would support their position.
In February 2013, ACT’s Minister for Workplace Safety and Industrial Relations, Simon Corbell, accepted all 27 recommendations of the report, much to the surprise of some of us. Corbell said in his media release that
“It is no longer acceptable for people in the construction industry to say there are safety issues in construction sites and then do nothing about them. This report compels unions, employers and government to stand up and actively promote a culture where everyone looks out for their mates, and everyone can go home safely every day…”
“As the report highlights, this is not simply an issue for Government. Safety is an issue for every person on a construction site with principal contractors, sub-contractors, workers, unions and the Regulator all working together.
“The Government expects employers and unions to demonstrate leadership on this issue.”
Safety Leadership or Conspiracy Theory
Today the Master Builders Association of the ACT released its response to “Getting Home Safely” (the Gower review). That response indicates that not all Minister Corbell’s expectations are going to be met with the MBA. In some ways this confirms many of the concerns in the report. More…
Ten years ago, Randy DeVaul wrote several articles for the Safety At Work magazine, a precursor to this blog. His US perspectives were enlightening and he has agreed to contribute occasionally to the SafetyAtWorkBlog. Below is an article he originally wrote in 2004.
As safety professionals, we have all worked at “selling” safety to upper management through budget and fiscal expenditures, worker compensation costs, and other financial approaches. Meanwhile, our “sell” to production managers has been based on compliance issues with OSHA/MSHA standards. We have set ourselves up for an uphill battle between production and safety.
Though we missed the boat earlier to integrate safety and production together, the timing now could not be better. Helping our managers see the integrated picture between safety and production should be our focus with less emphasis on compliance. Think about it – getting people to do something “because OSHA (or MSHA) says so” is not very motivating. Helping to see how safe performance also impacts production numbers, employee morale, absenteeism, and productivity schedules in addition to personal quality of life has a much greater effect. More…
The October 2012 edition of The Synergist, the magazine of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, included a frank interview with Niru Davé of Avon. Dave says that many safety and health professionals have a low level of competence.
He explains his statement through his belief that there are three competency elements in a safety professional:
- Knowledge – staying up-to-date with the information in your field
- People Skills – respect and approachability, and
- Contribution – communication and involvement, participating in and generating a strategic approach.
These elements could apply to any profession and to any professional association, or industry group. Indeed these elements can be both personal and organisational. More…
OnlineMBA.com recently uploaded a video about “The True Cost of a Bad Boss“. It is a good summary of the spread of negative organisational and employee effects that can result from poor management poor understanding and poor communication. It is well worth remembering this spread when determining the best way to manage workplace safety and increase productivity.
Although the video is from the US, there is research evidence to support many of the points raised. In December 2012, Safe Work Australia released The Australian Workplace Barometer Report On Psychosocial Safety Climate and Worker Health in Australia, a report that has been largely missed by the Australian media. The report says that:
“A standout finding here is that depression costs Australian employers approximately AUD$8 billion per annum as a result of sickness absence and presenteeism and AUD$693 million per annum of this is due to job strain and bullying.” (page 6)
This is a significant impact on Australian business costs and, if one takes the OnlineMBA information concerning bad bosses, Australian bosses may need to undertake a considerable amount of self-analysis when lobbying for red-tape reductions and calling for productivity increases. More…
On 21 December 2012 in the South Australian Industrial Court, Amcor Packaging (Australia) was fined $A96,000 over a breach of the occupational health and safety (OHS) laws. That type of sentence appears frequently in SafetyAtWorkBlog but the difference this time is that it is the third similar OHS prosecution and fine applied to Amcor in South Australia. Amcor Packaging has had similar OHS problems in Queensland and Victoria.
According to a SafeWorkSA media release (not yet available online), the latest prosecution involved an incident in November 2010 where:
“Two workers were walking on conveyor rollers to guide an unstable stack of cardboard when one inadvertently stepped into a gap between the rollers. The female worker was then struck by the arm of an automated pallet sweeper, sustaining multiple fractures to her lower leg and ankle.”
In his judgment on the case, Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke said there was no risk assessment at the plant and a lack of engineering controls. The two previous Amcor offences in South Australia also related to inadequate engineering controls.
Magistrate Lieschke also said that
“The two prior offences are highly relevant to this sentencing process, as the court is left with a low level of confidence that Amcor will not commit any future offences…..,”
In June 2008 law firm Holding Redlich mentioned an increase in an OHS penalty against Amcor by the Court of Appeals: More…
Vaughan Bowie is an Australian academic who has chosen workplace violence as his major area of interest. Bowie came to general prominence earlier this century with several books and his contribution to the WorkcoverNSW guidance on workplace violence.
His research has taken him to look at “organisational violence” and in October 2012, he addressed the 3rd International Conference on Violence in Healthcare (the proceedings are available HERE) on the topic in a presentation called “Understanding organizational violence: The missing link in resolving workplace violence?”
Bowie writes, in the conference proceedings (Page 155), that
“Initially much of the workplace violence (WPV) prevention and management responses focused on criminal violence from outside organizations. At the same time there was also a growing concern about service user violence on staff especially in the human services area. A later stage of this development was a growing recognition of relational violence at work. This includes staff-on-staff violence and aggression, bullying, horizontal violence, sexual harassment and domestic violence.
Models based on these areas of WPV have been developed by the International Labor Organisation (ILO), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Injury Prevention Research Center (IPRC) and the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) and other regulatory bodies. This presentation will show that the current models and responses based on these types of WPV are inadequate and ineffective because they largely ignore the fact that organizational culture and management style have a direct contributory effect on the types of violence experienced by employees, third parties, and service users. The findings demonstrate that what at first appears to be criminal, service user or relational violence at work may in fact be the outcome of a type of ‘upstream’ organizational violence trickling down in a toxic way triggering further violence.” (emphasis and links added) More…