Superannuation notices workplace safety Reply

Cover of ASCI Mental HealthLast week it was the Citi Safety Spotlight on ASX100, now it’s the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) with data on workplace safety and mental health of the S&P/ASX200.  The good news is the ACSI report is publicly available for download. The bad news is that the report is very limited. More…

Stanley’s story is powerful and unforgettable 2

Recently I was telling a colleague to temper their online video strategy and consider extracting the audio tracks from which a podcast strategy coud be developed. The advantage of podcasts is they can be listened to, be more portable, less distraction and, I think, can be more powerful. Earlier this week I listened to a Canadian podcast/documentary about the familial and social effects of a workplace death in the 1950s.

What can you tell me about Stanley?” is not a contrived plea for greater focus on workplace fatalities, as we often get from occupational health and safety regulators.  It is a snippet of family history, a painful and secret family history about the death of an uncle and a brother in a steel mill in the 1950s.  The  podcast looks at coronial records, company records, notes taken at the time by Stanley’s brother and shows that shame that many feel around workplace deaths now, existed then.

I listened to the podcast several days ago but I shiver now when I recall some of the pain and surprise that the family experienced.

“What Can You Tell Me About Stanley” can be listened to as a straight tale of a workplace death and the way such an incident was perceived in the 1950s.  But just as importantly, this should convince people of the power of simplicity in storytelling and social media.  The documentary obviously took months to put together and the revelations to the family are clearly not linear but this effort provides a fascinating 30 minutes for your attention.

Think of Stanley when you are applying your OHS skills.  You’ll be better for it.

Kevin Jones

Blog in OHS small business research Reply

Cover of A Once in a Generation Opportunity_ Narratives about the PotentRecently a reader brought to our attention a research report from Edith Cowan University that used SafetyAtWorkBlog as an important source of occupational health and safety (OHS) dialogue. “A ‘Once in a Generation Opportunity’? Narratives about the Potential Impact of OHS Harmonisation on Smaller Firms in Australia” by Rowena Barrett, Susanne Bahn, and Susan Mayson, illustrates, amongst many things, that social media can be a useful source of information for OHS research.

The main article referred to in the paper is one concerning lawyer Andrew Douglas with most attention given to the comments.

Barrett, Bahn and Mason have continued to research how OHS is seen by the small business sector in Australia. A more recent (2013) paper, available online, is called “The unmet promise of occupational health and safety harmonisation: continued complexity for small, multi-jurisdictional firms“.

Kevin Jones

10 (better) questions organisations should be asking about workplace bullying 2

On 14 July 2015, Russell Kennedy lawyers published an article “10 better questions organisations should be asking about workplace bullying”. The article is a great example of the type of advice about workplace bullying that lawyers provide to companies.  It is good advice but is limited by the legal process.

Here are my alternate, or complementary, 10 questions for an organisation to ask about workplace bullying, in no particular order: More…

SWMS – the infectious safety weed 17

Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) professional, Paul Breslin, is continuing his research into the use and application of the Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) in the construction industry.  His latest paper, recently published in the Journal of Health, Safety and Environment (subscription only) asks an important question:

“If administrative controls are one of the lowest levels of control measures under the hierarchy of control, why has the Safe Work Method Statement become a central element in ensuring safety in the Australian construction industry?”

Breslin’s article title summarises the frustration of many OHS professionals where safety relies on lower order controls of the Hierarchy of Control, such as the administrative controls like SWMS. More…

Enforceable Undertakings on OHS – Good and Bad 9

In 2010 Queensland’s former Attorney-General Cameron Dick said of enforceable undertakings that:

“Enforceable undertakings promote the introduction of long-lasting and more wide-ranging safety changes that would not have occurred under the prosecutorial system that imposes fines after the event.”

Enforceable Undertakings can be a powerful force for improving occupational health and safety (OHS) but they could also be used by employers to forestall investment in OHS and minimise the financial penalties should an incident occur.

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Is methamphetamine a significant workplace hazard? 5

The Australian Industry Group (AIGroup)  submission to the Australian Government’s Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement inquiry into crystal methamphetamine, commonly known as Ice, has been made publicly available.  The submission focuses on the risks to all workplaces, primarily, by imposing non-work statistics onto the workplace, lumping Ice in with other illicit drugs, and relying on anecdotal evidence. This approach is not unique to AiGroup and can also be seen regularly in the mainstream media but such an important Inquiry requires a much higher quality of evidence than anecdotes.

The submission references a recent Australian Crime Commission (ACC) report into Ice saying it:

“… paints a bleak picture for the community and Australian workplaces. This combined with greater ease of access, including in regional areas, places Australian workplaces at risk.

A key requirement for employers seeking to manage safety risks arising from persons attending work affected by Ice is the ability to conduct workplace drug and alcohol testing.” (page 3)

The ACC report refers almost exclusively to the hazards presented to hospital and emergency staff, not by Ice use by staff, and yet is able to link Ice-affected public to the drug testing of workers. More…

Mixed messages on OHS and productivity Reply

There is a clear link between the modern take on occupational health and safety (which includes psychosocial health) and productivity. However, there are seriously mixed messages coming from the Productivity Commission (PC) in its current inquiry into Australia’s Workplace Relations Framework.

In Senate Estimates on 3 June 2014 (draft Hansard), the Chair of the Productivity Commission, Peter Harris, and Assistant Commissioner, Ralph Lattimore, briefly discussed OHS.  Harris acknowledged that some of the submissions to the current inquiry discussed OHS matters (page 65) but Lattimore stated:

“….we did say that we would quarantine the inquiry away from workforce health and safety issues unless they were directly related to, say, enterprise bargaining or some feature of the relationship between employers and employees. We were aware of the large amount of regulation in that area, and we were not planning to revisit that.”

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ACTU Congress’ draft OHS policies deserve serious analysis 2

Pages from draft-2015-actu-congress-policies-2015-consolidatedThe Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) commences its 2015 Congress this week.  Each year around 800 trade union delegates meet to discuss changes to policies and to develop or refine strategies. This year the ACTU released its draft policies publicly prior to the Congress.  These policies have a long and strong historical and industrial relations context.  Occupational health and safety (OHS) is an important part of these policies and should spark discussions in the union movement and the OHS profession.

Early in the document, the ACTU states its “bargaining agenda” in which is included

“better work, life and family balance.” (page 7)

Curiously, the ACTU has chosen “better” rather than “safe”.  Better is a more inclusive term but harder to define.  Better for whom?  Better could be better paid or more secure or safer.

Trade unionists often see OHS as being monitored and enforced through the mechanism of the Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and would argue that OHS is throughout all the draft policies due to the HSR role but there are more workplaces in Australia without HSRs than with and it is worth considering the policies as independent from the HSR structure, if that is possible.. More…

Cancer data needs to start a discussion on effective controls 4

Cover of Cancer Occupational reportThe Cancer Council of Western Australia has released a report (not yet available online)that states:

“The number of occupationally caused cancers compensated each year equates to less than eight per cent of the expected number.” (Executive Summary)

This is an extraordinary statistic but consistent with the history of occupational health and safety (OHS) statistics where the core data originates from compensation figures rather than incident figures.  Cancer has always been a challenge in this area as it can manifest years after exposure or not at all. But this report also provides important data, and a challenge, for OHS professionals and business owners as

“Occupational exposures to carcinogens are estimated to cause over 5,000 new cases of cancer in Australia each year.” (Executive Summary)

The report has an excellent discussion on why such statistics are estimates and the unreliability of previous data in Australia and overseas but there is only a short, but important, discussion about risk and hazard controls – the principle focus for OHS professionals. More…