Drug and alcohol testing does not improve workplace safety, so why have it? 1

cover of EN455_NCETA_2011-2 Testing for drug and alcohol effects in workplaces sounds sensible but what do you do when there is no evidence that it improves worker safety or reduces risk? Apparently ignore the evidence, create industrial tension and impose unnecessary costs on industry.

The Australian national government and the Victorian (State) government have both pledged to introduce drug and alcohol testing for the construction sector.  The Victorian Government also promised to introduce drug and alcohol testing for parliamentarians but everyone expects a backdown on that election pledge.

Recently two researchers in Adelaide, Ken Pidd and Anne Roche published a research paper in Accident Analysis & Prevention asking “how effective is drug testing as a workplace safety strategy?“.  The abstract states:

“…the evidence base for the effectiveness of testing in improving workplace safety is at best tenuous.”


Building a better future but maybe not a safer one Reply

Cover of ACTU Blueprint 2015The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has a strong commitment to safe and healthy workplaces in Australia and would likely assert that nothing is more important than the safety of workers. However the latest submission to government on economic and social reform, “Building a Better Future – a Strong Economy for All” (not yet available online), has missed the chance to bring occupational health and safety (OHS) into the current policy debate on economic and productivity reforms. More…

Union launches drug and alcohol testing program 5

In March 2015, after years of resistance to drug and alcohol testing, Australia’s Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) changed its position substantially.  The catalyst for change has never fully been explained but this week, the CFMEU actively promoted drug and alcohol testing at a major construction site in Geelong.

On 22 September 2015 at the Waurn Ponds Epworth Hospital site, the CFMEU launched its Drug and Alcohol Management Program (DAMP). More…

A moderate entry in the IR/OHS conflict 1

innes_willox_hi_resDuring last week’s conference session on occupational health and safety and industrial relations, Innes Willox of the Australian Industry Group also spoke but was not included in the previous SafetyAtWorkBlog article.  However, his speech notes for that session have just been released and deserve consideration. More…

OHS and IR share the stage at safety convention 1

Nigel Hadgkiss of Fair Work Building & Construction (FWBC) took the opportunity of the SIA National Convention in September 2015 to explain his thoughts on occupational health and safety (OHS) and industry relationSIA Conference 2015 (21)s (IR).  Hadgkiss (pictured right) argued that he had an obligation to protect the safety and health of his employees/inspectors from a major workplace hazard presented by officials of the Construction Forestry Mining & Energy Union (CFMEU). In OHS terms, his perspective is understandable but his political opponent, Michael Borowick of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), also appearing at the conference, held a different opinion. More…

Drug and alcohol testing for Australian construction sites 5

On 18 September 2015 Senator Eric Abetz introduced amendments to the Building Code so that drug and alcohol testing will be required on construction sites.  In his media release he states that:

“The construction industry is a high risk industry where the risks associated with the use of heavy machinery, mobile equipment, working in congested areas and working from heights, are accentuated by the effects of alcohol and drug use.”

Following this argument, would not greater safety benefit be gained by addressing the risks posed by machinery, working at heights and in congested areas?  Drug and alcohol testing will do little to reduce these risks, or more correctly, hazards.  Being impaired may make it more likely for a worker to fall while working at heights but creative and safe design could eliminate the risk of working at heights altogether. More…

Inquiry into precarious/insecure work includes OHS Reply

2015 has been a big year for public attention on the exploitation of workers.  In May, the Four Corners program revealed the exploitation of, largely, migrant or illegal workers in the food processing and vegetable growing sectors.  In the last month, 7Eleven workers have featured, also after a Four Corners investigation in conjunction with Fairfax Media.  In both cases, workplace safety has been mentioned but not featured.

In September 2015, the Victorian (Labor) Government released the terms of reference (ToR) for its inquiry into labour hire and insecure work and occupational health and safety (OHS) gains a mention. The final report is due by July 2016. It is now up to the OHS profession and its advocates to emphasis OHS’ important role in the industrial relations of vulnerable workers. More…

Penalty rates outweighs workplace bullying 2

The attention given to the recent draft report of the Productivity Commission’s (PC) inquiry into the Workplace Relations Framework has largely died down due to the dismissal of the report by Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.  The industrial relations (IR) elements of the report generally failed to fit the Government’s IR narrative but this did not stop the usual and, probably, pre-prepared media releases from the ideological opponents and supporters.  But did those media releases comment on the recommendations about workplace bullying? Almost entirely – No. So is workplace bullying a non-issue? More…

Carrillo on leadership and communication Reply

Rosa Carrillo of Carrillo & Associates, describes herself as a “thought leader in transformational leadership for environment, safety and health” with a “unique understanding of safety culture and complex environments”. Prior to her attendance as a keynote speaker at the SIA National Convention in September SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to ask Rosa Carrillo about leadership, trust and communication.

Carrillo is aware of the risk of transferring concepts and practices rather than translating them and tailoring them to local needs. She told SafetyAtWorkBlog:

“I am afraid that one of my core principles is that you can’t just take what someone else did to address human behavior and implement it with “minimal translation” even if it was developed in your own country. You can certainly do that more readily with technology, but even then you must customize its introduction. Most leading edge thinkers in the safety field agree that benchmarking leads you down the rose garden path. You spend lots of money and feel you are doing the right thing until the next disaster emerges.”


Book Launch of Job Quality in Australia 1

Last week this blog reviewed the book Job Quality in Australia emphasising how worker safety, health and well-being is a vital element of job quality which, in turn, is crucial for Australia’s productivity. In preparation for a book launch in Sydney on 23 June 2015, the University of Sydney has released a media statement (available online later today) from one of the book’s authors and editors, Professor Angela Knox.

According to the media release, Professor Knox believes that:

“You measure job quality through wages, job security, training and skill development, and career development opportunities…. Australia is falling behind the developed world because we don’t have proactive policies that will allow us to improve the quality of jobs.”

“If we don’t actively work towards improving the quality of jobs personal wellbeing declines, job satisfaction declines and this limits productivity, employment levels, innovation and economic growth…

“We need to educate employers so that they know what their choices are and how they can go about improving jobs…. Good policies and education lead to a virtuous cycle of high quality jobs boosting further job growth.”

Kevin Jones