Today Australia hosts a No2Bullying conference. It is a timely conference as the debate on Australia’s changes to the Fair Work Act in relation to workplace bullying heats up.
Lawyer Josh Bornstein is particularly critical of the politicisation of the amendments and believes this increases the instability or remedies available to victims of workplace bullying by increasing pressure on under-resourced OHS regulators.
The amendments are unlikely to reduce the incidence of workplace bullying in Australia as they address post-incident circumstances.
As the new legislation is being passed through Parliament, the industrial relations, political and legal context will dominate the media, More…
This week in Australia the conservative Liberal Party released its much-anticipated industrial relations policy. Most commentary is that the policy is thin but in terms of occupational health and safety, the Liberal Party is supportive of the changes made concerning workplace bullying. Sadly, the commentary is often lazy.
One example of a careless headline is in the Herald Sun newspaper for 11 May 2013, “$20 million Budget boost to stop workplace bullying“. The Australian Government’s changes to the Fair Work Act do not prevent bullying, it only provides further options for remedy. OHS is principally about preventing harm and the Fair Work Act changes do not help in this aim. More…
Below is a guest post from long time SafetyAtWorkBlog reader, Marian Macdonald.
Workplace Access & Safety height safety consultant Aaron Carratello on a walkway built for access to HVAC equipment at Mt Eliza Business School
It was when Simon Murray put himself in the witness box and imagined what a judge would say that investing in walkways and guardrails became a ‘no brainer’.
The property and facility manager of the Melbourne Business School was faced with an important decision: whether to install extra roof anchors and static lines or shift towards more passive forms of fall prevention.
Roof anchors were cheaper initially, while the walkways and guardrails offered a far lower lifetime cost but, in the end, price was not the issue.
“A judge would ask whether we had done what was ‘reasonably practicable’,” Mr Murray says, “and if we’d only installed roof anchors and static lines to reach our HVAC equipment, the answer would have been ‘no’.” More…
The May 2013 National Safety magazine has an article on safety leadership by Australia lawyer, Michael Tooma. It is a terrific article but it also highlights the lack of case studies of the practical reality of safety leadership in Australia and the great distance still required to improve safety. Tooma starts the article with
“It is widely recognised that strong safety leadership is integral to work, health and safety performance in any organisation.” [emphasis added]
Later he writes
“There is little doubt that safety leadership is a prerequisite to a positive safety culture in any organisation.”
These equivocations may indicate authorial caution on the part of Michael Tooma but they could illustrate that the role of safety leadership still remains open to question. More…
On the 28 April edition of the ABC TV show, Insiders, Gerard Henderson displayed a common misunderstanding about the role and existence of regulations. In discussing the childcare industry Henderson, Executive Director of the Sydney Institute, said that regulations always increase business costs, as if regulations are the start of a process when regulations are almost always a reaction to a hazard, an abuse, an exploitation or a risk.
Business leaders seem to be incapable of understanding that they have the power to reduce what they see as OHS red tape by changing their behaviours, perhaps by embracing and implementing safety leadership.
Many politicians and commentators have linked recent factory explosions and collapses around the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April. More…
28 April is the annual day of remembrance for those people who have died at work. It has various names depending on local politics but the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, established by the International Labour Organization. This year ceremonies are being held on many days around April 28. On Wednesday 24 April, Australia’s Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, spoke at the remembrance ceremony in Brisbane. The official speech is illustrative.
Shorten states an occupational health and safety principle:
“…we know [workplace deaths] are preventable. They are not accidents.
Let me repeat this: by far most deaths and serious injuries are predictable safety failures.
It’s not a systems’ failure or risk assessment failure, or hazard identification failure…and all those other handsome words without tears.
It is the failure that springs as a readymade monster from the knowing tolerance of small daily hazards at the daily tasks.” (emphasis added)
Even given the qualifications in the highlighted statement above Shorten believes workplace incidents are safety failures that occur due to a “knowing tolerance” of hazards. The risk is not in the hazards themselves but in our tolerance of these hazards. More…
Every year, around this time, the mainstream media reports on the findings of employee surveys of the Victorian public service. Each year the statistics on workplace bullying are featured. (The Age newspaper reported on the latest survey on 31 March 2013.) But the approach to an understanding of workplace bullying has changed over the last fifteen years or so. A brief look at the March 2001 Issues Paper on workplace bullying, released by the Victorian Workcover Authority (VWA), is useful to illustrate the degree of change but also the origin of some of the contemporary hazard control themes.
The VWA Issues Paper was always intended to lead to a formal Code of Practice but due to belligerence from various industry bodies, no code eventuated and Victoria had to make do with a guidance note. This effectively banished workplace bullying to a nice-to-manage rather than an essential element of modern management. Significantly, Safe Work Australia intends to release a model Code of Practice on workplace bullying shortly. Perhaps the employer associations’ attitudes have mellowed. Perhaps it is the decline of trade union influence since 2001.
The Issues Paper roughly defines workplace bullying as:
“…aggressive behaviour that intimidates, humiliates and/or undermines a person or group.” More…
The leadership squabbles in the Australian Labor Party (ALP) have diminished for the moment, and the next Federal election is set for September 2013. Most everyone is tipping the ALP to lose the election. The verb “lose” is specifically chosen, for the opposition Liberal/National coalition will probably win “by default”. Whatever the electoral outcomes, the major political parties in Australia have current positions and policies on workplace safety. Six months out from an election, it may be worth looking at those policies, as they currently stand. The first is that of the ALP.
The ALP has an extensive National Platform that was presented at its National Conference in 2012. Below are some of the statements from that document as they pertain to occupational health and safety (OHS). Some commentary is offered on these statements.
“The Labor Government places the highest priority on worker safety, particularly miner worker safety.” (page 42) More…
Occupational health and safety has many examples of addressing small or short-term issues rather than facing the difficult and hard, but more sustainable, control measures. I was reminded of this by a recent media statement from the United States Chemical Safety Board (CSB) in relation to fatigue management.
In 2007 the CSB recommended that, following the Texas City refinery fire,
“the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the United Steelworkers International Union (USW) jointly lead the development of an ANSI consensus standard with guidelines for fatigue prevention in the refinery and petrochemical industries.” [links added]
The progress of API and USW in developing the 2010 ANSI-approved Recommended Practice 755 (RP 755) has been reviewed by the CSB staff and they have found the following disturbing problems:
- “The document was not the result of an effective consensus process, and therefore does not constitute a tool that multiple stakeholders in the industry can “own.” It was not balanced in terms of stakeholder interests and perspectives, and did not sufficiently incorporate or take into account the input of experts from other industry sectors that have addressed fatigue risks. More…
It is common to use a self-commissioned survey to market one’s services but sometimes the evidence does not support some of the marketing statements. The latest survey by St John Ambulance is a good example of this.
According to St John Ambulance’s media release on 13 March 2013:
“Only 13 per cent of Australian workplaces know how to keep their employees safe according to new research released … by … St John Ambulance Australia.”
This is reworded in the report (page 2) as
“…only 13% of Australian businesses are compliant with the new [First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice]’s requirements…”
The survey sample does not support the generalisations above. More…