WorkSafe’s approach to marketing safety to teenagers revealed 1

Two articles in two days concerning OHS advertising may seem a little much but in 2008 Australia’s Advertising Standards Board (ASB) received complaints about one of the graphic ads used by WorkSafe Victoria at that time.  WorkSafe had identified a need to shock teenagers about workplace risks but some television viewers found them disturbing.

WorkSafe Young Workers Campaign

A couple of the complaints reflect some of the comments posted by readers to the SafetyAtWorkBlog.

“These ads may be appropriate for industrial oh&s training programs, but not for the general community, for whom they serve no purpose other than to shock and horrify.”

“I was injured at work were I lost my entire eye ball, I think work place safety is very important, to spread the word is vital, however the scene of burnt flesh is going to upset and remind people who were injured at work the horror they suffered, I know I can’t watch it, and I wasn’t burnt.”

The ASB Case Report includes details of focus group surveys undertaken by WorkSafe Victoria in developing the advertisements.  These details illustrate some of the marketing thinking of WorkSafe. More…

The Safety Institute’s low profile needs to be seen in a media context 7

In recent weeks on several LinkedIn discussion forums there has been a series of highly critical postings about the Safety Institute of Australia. (I have participated in some of the discussions.)  Many comments have been unfair but almost all decry the absence of clear communication from the SIA and the very low profile of the organisation within Australia.

The SIA has struggled to gain traction in the Australian media even though the organisation has been in operation for over 60 years.  It seems there is little about workplace safety that is attractive to the general community.  (Who could not be fascinated by James Reason’s cheese?)  But a recent article by Mark Phillips, Communications Director with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, in the May-June 2012 edition of The Walkley Magazine (not available online), provides a contributory factor to the lack of traction. More…

Australian financial newspaper discusses workstation ergonomics 1

For some time, restricted posture at workstations has been identified as being unhealthy.  The Australian Financial Review on 15 May 2012 takes up the story but the author, Dierdre Macken, points to squatting as an option until “they wait for the occupational health and safety review of chairs to come in”.  She misses the point.  Chairs are not the problem.  The type of work and the design of workplaces is a much more important problem.

We have come to understand that productivity is not always achieved through a restricted focus on a work task based on an eight-hour day and that includes between one and three formal breaks.  A better productivity comes from engagement, interaction and a variety of tasks.  Interestingly workplace safety is also improved through these same elements.

Kevin Jones

Web interview on 18 April 2012 Reply

At a safety trade show running in conjunction with the Safety In Action Conference, Digicast will be streaming an interview with me at 2.00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (5am GST) on 18 April 2012.  Other safety professionals will follow my interview.

To watch go to http://www.digicast.com.au/live/

Kevin Jones

WorkSafe Victoria missteps on its venture with “Candid Camera” approach 10

WorkSafe Victoria has released a video of an experiment that shows that people will undertake unsafe acts if asked to do so.  This video is part of the OHS regulator’s campaign to increase focus on the OHS obligations of supervisors but it has generated serious complaints from safety professionals and advocates.

WorkSafe Victoria has been advised that the video sends “mixed messages” about electrical safety.  Safety professionals have decried that the video is meant to be funny with its jaunty whistling soundtrack yet it shows an apprentice pretending to receive a shock.  One participant giggles when she realises it is a joke, in the same way people are relieved after being “punk’d” or laugh after seeing the “candid camera” even though their participation was alarming.  The video has been described as a “stunt” that fails to illustrate the serious consequences of the action of handling live electric cables. More…

OHS is Dead. Long Live WHS. 6

Media reports on the 13 April 2012 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting say that harmonisation of occupational health and safety laws in Australia has died.  Some say this is the fault of the Victorian Government with its economic justification for inaction but the process was struggling as soon as the West Australian Government flagged its major concerns, principally, with increased union powers, as reiterated in the Australian Financial Review on 14 April 2012 (not available on-line).

WA Premier Colin Barnett is quoted as saying that:

“There are three or four sections we don’t agree with and the principle one of those relates to right of entry [for trade unions]… We see that as an industrial issue.  Right of entry, it is was applied to OH&S, in all probability would be used by the unions to shut down the Pilbara iron ore operations…”

This is further evidence of the political dominance of the mining sector in Western Australia, if it was ever needed.

Victoria does not have the same excuse as the right of entry has existed for many years and almost totally without any industrial relations problems. More…

Accuracy on OHS laws, services and products is essential 5

The following article illustrates how important it is for companies to maintain accuracy when writing a media release about safety laws.  The internet allows for inaccuracies to become widely distributed and for these to gain some legitimacy through the re-publication on various OHS, magazine and news websites.

Asbestos Audits International issued a media release in early April 2012 stating the following:

“On January 1st, 2012, new Australian Model Health and Safety legislation came into effect dictating workplace buildings constructed before 2004 must have an asbestos audit. The legislation outlines building owners, building managers and property managers are responsible for these audits. More…

The fact that quad bike use is dangerous needs a fresh communication strategy 1

Dr Tony Lower of the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety has released new information about deaths and injuries associated with quad bike use in Australia for 2011. His report lists media reports that

“There were at least 23 quad bike related fatalities and 56 major injuries, many of which are likely to be life‐changing…”

He also continues to keep pressure on the quad bike manufacturers:

“It is an absolute insult to quad bike users and particularly to those families that have lost loved ones in rollovers that the manufacturers and the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) simply continue to defend the indefensible. There is an urgent need to address this issue through better design of the quad bikes themselves and also ensuring crush protection devices are fitted”

But the severity of the risk and potential consequences of using quad bikes is well established.  This article is going to look at a couple of other issues raised by Dr Lower’s media release (not yet available online) and the Media Monitors report. More…

The Australian newspaper dismisses workplace deaths as “sickies” 7

Safe Work Australia has released two important statistical reports. One concerns the number of Work-Related Traumatic Injury Fatalities for 2009-10 and the other is called The Cost of Work-Related injury and Illness for Australian Employers, Workers and the Community: 2008-09 .

These reports have gained minimal mainstream media coverage. In a very short article The Australian newspaper preferred to focus on productivity clauses in workplace agreements following a departmental report, as is its choice, but, more significantly, the newspaper’s headline dismisses the report’s cost estimates on “work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths” as “sickies”.  The report on costs, from where The Australian drew its $A60 billion reference, includes an evaluation of the cost of workplace fatalities, defined in the report on page 18 as

“a work-related injury or disease, which results in death.”

It is enormously insulting that the newspaper includes workplace deaths in its disparaging headline “Workers’ sickies costing us $60bn”. Minister Bill Shorten states in his media release accompanying the reports that:

“Work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities have a huge impact on Australian society. They can physically and mentally affect workers, colleagues, employers, families and the community. This latest research is evidence of the significant cost to Australia’s economy. Workplace safety is not just about avoiding human tragedy it is also about reducing economic cost for the nation.”

At a time when the Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, is trying to bring some rigour and dignity to the issue of workplace safety, The Australian newspaper should be ashamed.

Kevin Jones

CEO departure has no apparent controversy 4

Speculation has been rife about the departure of Victorian WorkSafe’s CEO, Greg Tweedly since it was announced on 11 January 2012. Crikey (not available online) has aired questions about Tweedly’s lack of action on workplace bullying which WorkSafe has been accused of not addressing. The Age newspaper has juxtaposed the Liberal Government’s use of $A471 million of WorkCover premiums for consolidated revenue with Tweedly’s departure.

On the workplace bullying issue, Tweedly has said previously that he does not believe that WorkSafe has a toxic work environment. When the accusations were being aired in 2011 it was Tweedly who faced the media, where in the past it would have been more likely for the Executive Director to address these issues. Bullying accusations are highly embarrassing for WorkSafe as they issue the sdvice on preventing bullying at work, however WorkSafe is only one of the many government bodies in Victoria and in other Australian States that have been accused of this hazard. Other instances of workplace bullying reports have resulted in independent inquiries but not so with WorkSafe. Perhaps Tweedly is right and the working environment in WorkSafe is not toxic, or no more toxic than any other government department or authority. Perhaps the critics should be focussing on the problem of bullying in the workplace rather than the workplace, or the executive management, itself. More…