Drug and alcohol testing does not improve workplace safety, so why have it? 3

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…

Conversation about work-related grief Reply

Recently SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to spend some time with Bette Phillips-Campbell, the Manager of GriefWork, a unit of the Creative Ministries Network in Melbourne.  GriefWork provides a range of support services to families of those who have died at work or due to work factors.

The conversation touches on issues including

  • how GriefWork operates and is funded,
  • work-related suicide,
  • worker memorials,
  • the application of restorative justice in the workplace context,
  • how a workplace death affects company executives,

The interview can be accessed at Bette Phillips Interview 2015

If you want more information about GriefWork or how you may be able to help this service, please contact Bette on (61) 03 9692 9427 or by email.

Kevin Jones

Another $11billion mental health estimate Reply

Cover of beyondblue_workplaceroi_finalreport_may-2014After reading this morning’s article on mental health costings, a vigilant reader has suggested an alternative source for the $A11 billion cost figure.  It is also a report about which this blog raised serious questions when the report was released in May 2014. The “new” report seems to confirm the concerns in this morning’s article over needing to dig to find the original data sources of workplace hazards. More…

Mental health missing from key OHS statistics Reply

Cover key-whs-stat-2015Part of the core duties of any occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator is the production of data. Recently Safe Work Australia (SWA) released its “Key Work Health and Safety Statistics” for 2015 and given the amount of media attention on workplace mental health, one would expect mental health to be one of the key statistics.  It’s not.

In fact mental health is referenced only once in the document on page 28.  The table states that for the decade of 2000-2001 to 2010-2011

“mental disorders…did not display a clear overall trend of increase or decrease”.

This is significant in the context of workplace mental health reporting.  Is the reported increase in workplace mental health a myth?  Safe Work Australia’s statistics seems to support this. More…

“Job Quality” progresses OHS thinking 2

On housing affordability this week, Australia’s Treasurer, Joe Hockey, suggested a solution would be to get a “good job”. This occurred a month or so after the publication of a terrific book (that Hockey obviously has yet to read) called “Job Quality in Australia“, edited by Angela Knox and Chris Warhurst for Federation Press. The editors write about the importance of job quality which “…affects attitudes, behaviour and outcomes at the individual, organisational and national level” (page 1) and job quality’s political context:

“While the current Abbott government is primarily concerned with improving Australia’s macro-economic position, such a position is unlikely to be achieved and sustained without a policy agenda focusing on job quality.” (page 2)

Significantly for this blog’s readership, the book has a chapter, written by Michael Quinlan and Philip Bohle, on the impact of organisation on workplace health, safety and wellbeing. 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.”


Cancer data needs to start a discussion on effective controls 5

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…

Cry of frustration in Industrial Manslaughter Bill 4

Over the last few months some in Australia’s trade union movement have renewed calls for the introduction of industrial manslaughter laws in various jurisdictions. The issue has appeared both on television and online.

Curiously the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) seems to have dropped the “industrial manslaughter” terminology it has used in the past. In a 28 April 2015 media release, the ACTU stated:

““Strengthening OHS laws to make negligent companies and individual directors liable sends a clear message to employers that they must ensure people are safe at work.”


“Current laws need to be strengthened so that companies and company directors are liable for our safety at work.”

It seems that the charge has been left to the South Australian Greens Parliamentarian, Tammy Franks, who has proposed amendments to the SA Work Health and Safety laws in Parliament on 6 May.  But what does Franks expect to achieve with this Bill?  Will it reduce harm or is it a heartfelt cry of frustration? More…

Podcast of interview on OHS reviews 3

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.

Kevin Jones