Devil’s Dust – Australian movie on asbestos and corporate morality 7

On November 11 and 12 2012, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation will broadcast “Devil’s Dust”, a two-part movie about asbestos in Australia.  This is not a documentary on asbestos-related diseases.  It follows the story of investigative journalist Matt Peacock from the 1970s to the present day in parallel with the corporate machinations of James Hardie Industries and its former CEO, John Reid and the life, times and death of Bernie Banton.

To many Australians, bits and pieces of each of these narrative streams will be familiar but Devil’s Dust illustrates the moral linkages between these streams leading to a powerful story of corporate greed, strength of character and man’s inhumanity to man.  The workplace safety context of Devil’s Dust is obvious – ignoring or hiding information about harm to workers, the management of many workplace risks through allowances and “danger money”.

The television production values depict the times perfectly and for those who know of the asbestos risks, particularly readers of Matt Peacock’s book “Killer Company” which inspired the movie, the opening few seconds summarise major issues in the asbestos story – sacks of asbestos on a truck, cigarette smoking and dust being bashed from work clothes.  Later in the first part, other issues are touched on – the washing of asbestos-contaminated work clothes by wives, asbestos in trains, asbestos in carpet underlay and asbestos used as road toppings. More…

SafetyAtWorkBlog gains a 2012 top blog honour 6

SafetyAtWorkBlog is proud to accept the honour of being one of the 2012 honorees of LexisNexis’ Top 25 Blogs for Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Issues. According to Lexis Nexis’ website:

“For a number of years now, Australian editor Kevin Jones has been writing and compiling an excellent mix of “news, commentary and opinion” on workplace safety and health in “the Land Down Under.” Aided by several other contributors, Jones offers timely and interesting entries that should interest workers’ compensation professionals in North America, as well. The blog takes a broad and thoughtful swath.”

We strongly recommend that SafetyAtWorkBlog readers look at the other honorees for 2012.

Thank you to all our readers and contributors. We hope to continue for some time.

Kevin Jones

Shit safety campaign launched in Australia 4

On September 5 2012, the Tasmania Minister for Industrial Relations, David O’Byrne launched a new campaign to encourage businesses to prepare for new Work Health and Safety laws.  The name of the campaign is “OH S…”.

O’Byrne’s media release explains the campaign:

“OH S… is the understandable gut reaction of any worker, manager or business owner when they hear there’s been an accident in the workplace… This campaign uses that first reactionary moment to try and promote how workplaces can be proactive on work health and safety.”

It is reminiscent of the famous line by Bill Cosby when describing a car accident and a driver’s reaction:

“First you say it, then you do it”.

The wisdom of this campaign is questionable.  There could be a range of responses created in the media by various comedians, all to do with safety and shit, such as:

“Make the job safe, move that shit”.

“Don’t be a shithead with safety”.

“The top three priorities of this company is Safety First, Safety Second and Safety Turd”.

Bringing shit into the concept of safety is a challenge and could offend some of the old-guard that sees OHS as sacrosanct.  But it could be that such an advertising strategy for workplace safety is necessary.   More…

New anti-bullying campaign launched 2

Brodies’ Law concerning workplace bullying is set to gain more media attention today as the Victorian Attorney-General, Robert Clark, launches a new anti-bullying campaign.

The campaign has been pushed for by the parents of Brodie Panlock, Damien and Rae, and was whispered about at recent public hearings into workplace bullying.  However, the media campaign gained a shaky start on the ABC from psychologist Evelyn Field.  Her interview, which was videoed, appears almost off-topic and never gains the gravitas the subject of workplace bullying deserves.  The ABC may be partly at fault here by choosing Evelyn Fields instead of the Attorney-General or Brodie’s parents.

The media release of the Attorney-General (not yet available online) states that the ‘Take a stand against bullying’ campaign

“… will see information about bullying and Brodie’s Law distributed to more than 8,000 schools, workplaces and police stations across Victoria.”

When one considers the number of schools, workplaces and police stations in Victoria, 8,000 is not a lot.  Victoria Police has been very supportive of Brodie’s Law and the Panlock family and have produced a terrific Youtube video to explain the law.  It is far more effective than other attempts to explain the law. More…

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…