Over the last week Australian media has been reporting on office workers using standing workstations. Given sedentary working has been shown to have negative health effects, standing seems sensible as it increases mobility but is it enough to stand? Or is this recent media attention just another example of shallow writing on occupational health and safety matters, or even media manipulation?
An article in the Canberra Times (which appeared in other Fairfax publications around 17 April 2015) states that:
“…health and ergonomics experts say the benefits to overall health for standing-up workers is irrefutable..”
“Some also believe it makes workers more productive…”
The article then quotes the head of office supplies and furniture from an office furniture retailer, Jim Berndells of Officeworks. Its next expert is another retailer of furniture, Office Workstations and its managing director Jovan Vucetic. The attention granted to these retailers along with a mention of the price of a standing workstation and the companies that Vucetic has supplied, seems to imply that the article is less about OHS than about product information.
(It may be relevant that Vucetic’s LinkedIn profile shows that in 2012 he was running an Ebay company and that he continues to operate JOVAN Imedia, which he describes as an “affiliate marketing business”, alongside his workstations business.) More…
The recent article into the review of SafeWorkSA caught the attention of the Your Rights at Night radio program and led to an interview on 9 April 2015. The podcast of that interview is now available online.
Interviews are odd experiences, particularly when they are over the phone. Although there is a reason someone wants to talk with you, you usually do not know the questions beforehand.
For the interview above, I was in the bedroom, away from noises, with printed blog articles, media releases and OHS statistics across the pillows. I thought the spread of information was important to have at hand to make sure the information I provided was accurate but one can still get caught out when the pace of the interview has settled. The last question asked in the interview could have been answered better. Neither of the reviews announced have a fixed end date, regardless of what I said, in fact you can hear the shuffling of papers while I looked for the SA government’s media release. Oh well.
How different can occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators be? A review into WorkSafe Victoria was announced in February 2015 but the review into its equivalent in South Australia, SafeWorkSA, is more progressed and has released a public discussion paper entitled “Transforming Work Health and Safety Performance“. Its suggestions should be noted by James Mackenzie the reviewer of WorkSafe Victoria.
Maybe not surprising to many, the future is a reworking of the past. More…
Many OHS professionals state that leadership is a crucial element to establishing a safety culture and then support this with examples of positive leadership. But some people fail at leadership and failure is often more instructional than success. Recently the CEO of Orica, Ian Smith, had to resign after his abusive manner resulted in the resignations of two employees. This is bad enough but when the Board hired Smith around three years earlier, the Board saw his manner as attractive. If leadership is crucial to a safety culture, what does this say about Orica’s decisions?
The Chanticleer column of the Australian Financial Review (AFR) wrote on March 24 2015 (paywalled):
“The board’s determination to have Smith shake Orica to its foundations was so great it allowed him to destroy staff engagement and walk all over the company’s culture of mutual respect. What is so bewildering about this deliberately aggressive and occasionally bullying change management strategy is that it was endorsed by a range of respected non-executive directors…..”
In late March 2015, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) dropped its objection to drug and alcohol (D&A) testing on Australian construction sites. There seems to be several reasons for this change and the evidence for D&A testing of construction workers remains scant but the opportunity for enormous change on this public health and occupational hazard should not be missed. More…
The Hazelwood mine fire has faded from the memory of most Victorians following the Parliamentary inquiry but not so for those who continue to live in the Latrobe Valley and with the health consequences of the fire. Tom Doig has written a short book on the incident and its consequences that will put pressure on the Andrews (Labor) Government to honour its election promise and reopen the inquiry.
Doig’s book, The Coal Face, summarises many of the issues raised by the inquiry by looking at a selection of personal stories from residents, neighbours and firefighters. It is a short book of just over 100 pages but it is an important reminder that the consequences of the mine fire are still being felt. More…
On 18 March 2015, the Melbourne office of Herbert Smith Freehills conducted a breakfast seminar that doubled as a launch for the latest edition of the CCH Wolters Kluwer book Australian Master Work Health and Safety Guide (reviewed recently). The seminar had three of the book’s authors talking about emerging occupational health and safety (OHS) and work health and safety (WHS) issues for Australia. These included
- The growth of WHS/OHS “Assurance Programs”
- The potential implications for the safety management from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Free Trade Agreements.
- The OHS trend in the European Union for “Supply Chain Safety“.
The first two of these topics are discussed below. More…
Recently I spoke at the Safety Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur. The summit or rather a conference had around 50 delegates and was held in a small conference room in a good hotel near the centre of the city. The delegates were from a range of industries – maritime, power generation, construction and others. I learnt that there was much that Westerners could share with Malaysian OHS professionals but that the sharing would be much quicker and more meaningful if we knew more about the Asian situation before proposing our suggestions and solutions. More…
Occupational health and safety (OHS) is inextricably linked to everyday life and everyday politics but it is treated as somehow separate, even by those who are experts in OHS. This is not the case with industrial relations which is much more grounded in the political realities.
Industrial relations has been pushed by the trade union movement that has always seen workers’ rights as a social issue. The OHS profession and its associations have been content, largely, to live within the factory fence. Until recently OHS laws related solely to the workplace and OHS professionals had the luxury of a clear demarcation for its operations.
But new OHS laws acknowledge the responsibility for the effects of work on those other than workers, and those who are neighbours to workplaces. Australian OHS professionals have been slow to embrace the social role that has been foisted on them. There seems no excuse for this.
Recently, a hearing of an Australia Senate Committee spoke with the CEO of the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency, Peter Tighe. The discussion illustrated some of the social, political and economic risks of this long-known workplace hazard. More…
A common theme throughout presentations at the Safety Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur was the need to communicate safety and health clearly and concisely to variety of nationalities with a variety of literacy levels. My presentation aimed at reminding the OHS professional delegates that they may already have skills that they could use in communicating safety issues to their audience or workers and contractors.
Every culture has stories. Stories have been the dominant way of teaching for centuries but we are gradually losing some of our innate storytelling skills or we do not see how they may be relevant to the workplace. OHS professionals could benefit from redeveloping those skills and also encouraging those skills in others. Stories can be a base for teaching,listening and, in OHS parlance, consultation.
Quite often people in business talk about “the story” without really appreciating the complexity of storytelling, or the power of storytelling. Here are two quotes about stories that I plucked from a marketing brochure:
“The story is what drives the bond between the company and the consumer.”
“Stories can be used to communicate visions and values, to strengthen company culture, to manage the company through change and to share knowledge across the organisation.”*
There is some truth in these quotes but the purpose of the quotes undermine their value. The book these are from discusses storytelling in terms of branding and advertising, in other words the purposeful manipulation of people’s desires. For marketing and advertising is the sector where storytelling has been most effective in supporting the selling of products and the selling of ideas.