Bus Association provides fresh and different guidance on workplace mental health Reply

Cover of Bus_Industry_Wellness_-_A_Guide_For_Managers_-_Oct_2015Occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators seem comparatively quiet on the issue of mental health in workplaces.  But this is not deterring industry associations from releasing their own guidance on psychosocial issues.  Several weeks ago the Minerals Council of Australia released its guide, this week the Bus Association of Victoria released three guides about workplace mental health, one for managers, one for operators and leaders and one for everyone.  The most significance difference about these guides is the level of customer contact and the isolation of bus drivers. More…

Hierarchy of Control podcast 1

It always surprises me when clients and colleagues ignore the Hierarchy of Controls when deciding what control measures to introduce.  Recently Oregon’s OSHA released a podcast about the Hierarchy of Controls which shares some of my concerns.

It was concerning that the podcast stated that some hierarchies place Administrative Controls on the same level as Engineering Controls and that some consider fall protection devices as Engineering Controls due the engineering of the anchor point (a dubious engineering control as this blog has discussed previously).

Below are several quotes from the 4 minute podcast Michael Wood of Oregon OSHA.

“A control that fully eliminates the hazard is always preferred to one that does not.”

“The hierarchy improves the control’s reliability.”

“The hierarchy of control recognises that perfection in human performance can not be attained.”

This short podcast is a good quick reminder to occupational health and safety professionals but could also be discussion catalyst on basic hazard management.

Kevin Jones

More care needed in discussing workplace mental health and mental illness 2

Writing about workplace mental health is a tricky task.  An article recently posted to Business News Western Australia shows how tricky it can be and how mental health can be misinterpreted as mental illness.

The headline, “Are you one of the 20% of workers that will experience a mental health issue?” clearly refers to workers but the first sentence of the article does not.  “Australian adults” are not all “workers”.

Out of the total population of around 24 million Australians, Wikipedia estimates the working-age population of Australia (15 – 64 years) at round 67% (16 million, approximately). If we apply these statistics to the headline, there are 3.2 million workers who “will experience a mental health issue”. But is this annually, over one’s working life or over a lifetime? The article does not say.

Not only are the statistics messy, so is the terminology. More…

5 experts in 60 minutes Reply

Host: ISCRR's Jason Thompson

Host: ISCRR’s Jason Thompson

The Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) has tried a new format for its occupational health and safety (OHS) seminars.  It is not a lunch with a single presenter and it is not a Three-Minute Thesis.  It is five safety researchers in one hour, seven minutes per person and a single question from the floor – and it worked. More…

Inconsistency on OHS roles in dairy careers guide 2

Cover of WSV966__Dairy_Safety_webSeveral years ago, WorkSafe Victoria published “Dairy Safety: A Practical Guide“* A decade on Dairy Australia has published its career guidance “Stepping Stones” which seems to imply that not all employers and workers have a legislative responsibility to work safely and without harming others.

It is a legislative truism that “safety is everyone’s responsibility” and Dairy Australia advises that

“All farm businesses have an obligation under law to provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees, contractors, family, visitors and members of the public. Farm businesses who don’t act to fulfil health and safety responsibilities face significant fines and penalties.”

Cover of Stepping Stones - DairyHowever according to Stepping Stones only some dairy roles have an overt occupational health and safety obligation.  More…

A top OHS blog for 2014 13

I am very proud to receive recognition from LexisNexis again in 2014 for my work on the SafetyAtWorkBlog.  On 16 December 2014 LexisNexis Legal Newsroom Workers’ Compensation named the SafetyAtWorkBlog as one of the Top Blogs for Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Issues. It is a great honour for a blog that is self-funded and written in my spare time.

LexisNexis has described some of the articles as “insightful and entertaining” and reflective. One article in particular was a discussion spurred by the writings of Terry Reis and would not have been possible without his initial article.

I thank LexisNexis for this unexpected honour and feel very proud to be amongst the other honourees for 2014.  It is good to see new ones on the list and encourage all those OHS professionals who feel they have something to say, to say it.  The more voices the OHS profession has, the richer our debates and the greater our state of knowledge.

Kevin Jones


What if “reasonably practicable” was applied to a disease outbreak? 4

There seems to be an increasing trend for the principles of occupational health and safety (OHS) to be applied to matters outside the workplace.  OHS principles were created to reflect the values of society in the 1970s and 80s and, although the laws have changed to reflect economic needs, the principles remain basically the same.  A major legal change has been the move away from preventing harm “at the source” to one of reasonable practicability and this can reduce the overall level of safety available to workers and others.

It is interesting to note that statements on the current Ebola outbreak argue the sense in dealing with the outbreak “at the source”.  Why do we accept a reasonably practicable control measure for harm at work but expect a stronger preventative measure for public health threats?  Shouldn’t we be aiming to reduce all harm “at the source” regardless of the type of harm? More…

Lack of progress on Safe Work Method Statements shows immaturity 17

On 27 October 2014 the Safety Institute of Australia, with the support of RMIT University conducted a seminar on safety in the construction industry.  As with the event last year the issue of Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) dominated the conversation.  The same frustrations were expressed as last year – SWMS are too big and complex, they are demanded for tasks they are not legislatively required for, they are rarely read, they are rarely reviewed and they are written only in English.  What was missing was an indication of  who is (over)demanding SWMS and why.

The seminar contained one client representative experienced in major construction projects who said that he was not directly involved with SWMS as the contract demands only that work is undertaken safely with predetermined levels of risk and reward.  That level of safety may or may not involve the use of SWMS – SWMS were not prescribed.  

He did not review SWMS unless there was a specific reason and most of the time there was not.  It could be argued that too much involvement by the client in how the project is to be completed implies a shared OHS responsibility with the client, changing the client/contractor relationship.

One construction industry representative said that they have been able to reduce the number of SWMS to around twenty types for each of the active construction projects.  This has been achieved by limiting the SWMS to the 19 high risk tasks identified in safety legislation.  It was significant that this perspective came from the top-level of construction companies, the Tier Ones. More…

When safety equipment fails to be safe, nobody’s watching 39

Twelve months ago, some Australia media, including this blog, began reporting on safety concerns raised by the Working At Heights Association (WAHA) about the reliability and suitability of anchor points.  Australia is currently in the middle of Safe Work Australia Month and there seems to have been little progress on the issue.  A reader of SafetyAtWorkBlog provided the following summary and update of the situation:

Who checks the true safety of equipment designed to save the lives of Australian workers? Nobody in particular, it seems.

Last September, the Working At Heights Association, an industry body staffed by volunteers, revealed many of the most commonly-used roof anchors failed to meet basic safety standards. Almost a year later, the association is still battling to see rooftops made safe, despite repeated appeals for action from the OHS regulators and the absence of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

 An estimated 800,000 Australians work at height and routinely clip their harnesses onto safety anchors. A worker falls to his or her death every 12 days and WAHA chairman Michael Biddle said authorities should be concerned. Biddle told Industry Update magazine

“It’s the third highest cause of death in the workplace after motor vehicle accidents and being hit by moving objects. In most cases, regulators are more concerned in taking a reactive approach after an accident has happened.  There is a great need for an enhanced level of enforcement.   If we had an increase in penalties and stronger enforcement of standards I’m sure we would see a higher level of compliance by industry.”


WHS, performance indicators, annual reports and other thoughts 4

Macquarie University researcher Sharron O’Neill is traveling around Australia refining, through consultation and seminars, her research into Work Health and Safety (WHS) Due Diligence. In a Melbourne seminar this week O’Neill, and her colleague, Karen Wolfe,  provided thought-provoking discussions on three principal areas:

  • Due Diligence,
  • Performance Indicators, and
  • Reporting.

Below are some of my thoughts that they provoked.

WHS Due Diligence

WHS Due Diligence is still a poorly understood concept.  Part of the reason is that the major explainers of due diligence seem to be, predominantly, labour lawyers who, not surprisingly, emphasis the legal requirements and origins rather than the safety elements and application.  There are few safety professionals who are explaining due diligence; rather they are discussing OHS/WHS in the context of due diligence.

One colleague explained how an established organisation employed her as their first dedicated OHS professional around the same time as due diligence was being discussed  as part of the national OHS harmonisation process.  By looking through the company’s existing system of work, More…