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…
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…
Australian politics is currently embroiled in a dispute generated by a contractor entering the telecommunications pits of the asset owner. Some, or many, of the pits contain asbestos and the contractor’s work, the laying of new fibre-optic cables, may disturb the asbestos. There are many other concerns but that is the nub.
The Australian newspaper has been running on this issue for many weeks but one article in today’s edition called “Taking a dig: will Bill come up short?” (page 9 – online paywall), by David Crowe, caught my attention. Crowe reports that:
“The Australian has been told Telstra chief executive David Thodey wrote to Shorten in December 2009 to argue against his proposal for a ‘‘proactive’’ program to remove asbestos from the company’s pits. Thodey gave three reasons for not proceeding: the cost; the risk of releasing asbestos; and the fact plans for the NBN were in train but had not been locked in.”
I realise that the OHS legislative concept of “reasonably practicable” does not extend to all facets of life but if it were applied to the current asbestos exposure (and I think it could) Thodey’s three reasons given above would be crucial in any potential prosecution, particularly if the reasons in Thodey’s response to Bill Shorten were listed in order of priority. In OHS law, cost is the last element to be considered in determining a reasonably practicable hazard control measure.
Any safety conference involving the Australian construction industry will have some discussion on Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) and this weekend’s Building Safety conference was no different. During the presentation on Saturday by the Federal Safety Commissioners, SWMS was bubbling along underneath many of his words and statements. Sadly, the audience (now) seems to have been too polite to ask him questions about the elephant in the room. There was no such hesitation following the presentation by Brookfield-Multiplex’s Paul Breslin on the Sunday.
Several delegates stated their belief that the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner (OFSC) is largely to blame for the over-emphasis on SWMS in the construction sector and for the bloating of SWMS into a document that does little to improve safety and is more related to meeting the audit criteria of the OFSC.
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…
Today Australia hosts a No2Bullying conference. It is a timely conference as the debate on Australia’s changes to the Fair Work Act in relation to workplace bullying heats up.
Lawyer Josh Bornstein is particularly critical of the politicisation of the amendments and believes this increases the instability or remedies available to victims of workplace bullying by increasing pressure on under-resourced OHS regulators.
The amendments are unlikely to reduce the incidence of workplace bullying in Australia as they address post-incident circumstances.
As the new legislation is being passed through Parliament, the industrial relations, political and legal context will dominate the media, More…
Below is a guest post from long time SafetyAtWorkBlog reader, Marian Macdonald.
Workplace Access & Safety height safety consultant Aaron Carratello on a walkway built for access to HVAC equipment at Mt Eliza Business School
It was when Simon Murray put himself in the witness box and imagined what a judge would say that investing in walkways and guardrails became a ‘no brainer’.
The property and facility manager of the Melbourne Business School was faced with an important decision: whether to install extra roof anchors and static lines or shift towards more passive forms of fall prevention.
Roof anchors were cheaper initially, while the walkways and guardrails offered a far lower lifetime cost but, in the end, price was not the issue.
“A judge would ask whether we had done what was ‘reasonably practicable’,” Mr Murray says, “and if we’d only installed roof anchors and static lines to reach our HVAC equipment, the answer would have been ‘no’.” More…
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.”
This 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…
28 April is the annual day of remembrance for those people who have died at work. It has various names depending on local politics but the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, established by the International Labour Organization. This year ceremonies are being held on many days around April 28. On Wednesday 24 April, Australia’s Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, spoke at the remembrance ceremony in Brisbane. The official speech is illustrative.
Shorten states an occupational health and safety principle:
“…we know [workplace deaths] are preventable. They are not accidents.
Let me repeat this: by far most deaths and serious injuries are predictable safety failures.
It’s not a systems’ failure or risk assessment failure, or hazard identification failure…and all those other handsome words without tears.
It is the failure that springs as a readymade monster from the knowing tolerance of small daily hazards at the daily tasks.” (emphasis added)
Even given the qualifications in the highlighted statement above Shorten believes workplace incidents are safety failures that occur due to a “knowing tolerance” of hazards. The risk is not in the hazards themselves but in our tolerance of these hazards. More…
Below is a guest post from long time SafetyAtWorkBlog reader, Marian Macdonald.
“If you need to use that, you’ll almost certainly die,” says fall prevention expert Carl Sachs, pointing to a guardrail on the rooftop of a multi-storey Melbourne office block.
Fixed to flimsy aluminium flashing, the guardrail flies in the face of several mandatory and voluntary standards but Sachs says non-compliances are more the norm than the exception on Australia’s rooftops. The problem, he says, is that height safety equipment installers need no training or qualifications and nobody is checking that their work really is capable of saving lives.
“Australians wouldn’t accept unqualified electricians wiring our houses but, as it stands, all you need is a ute, a credit card and a cordless drill to install the safety gear that stops us falling off skyscrapers,” he says.
It’s a concern echoed by, plumbers, building surveyors, facility managers and builders.
Paul Naylor of the Master Plumbers Association of NSW, says plumbers risk deadly falls daily.
“Whilst due diligence principles can be applied and all care taken to ensure that height safety systems are adequate, without some form of regulation or certification, workers are placed at risk of serious injury everyday due to a lack of knowledge and regulation specific to fall prevention,” Mr Naylor says.