Australia’s “Find a Psychologist” directory Reply

Several OHS regulators in Australia, OHS professional associations and trade union have directories for OHS advisers.  Most of them are in the traditional OHS areas of guarding, engineering, chemical safety…..  Psychosocial issues such as work stress or workplace bullying haven’t featured as much.

The Australian Psychological Society (APS) has a very good searchable directory for its members.  The search results provide a brief table of those psychologists for the subject area in your region with a good amount of information on individual listings on the click-through.

A great feature is to locate someone within a radius of one’s town or suburb.  The Society has thought about the geography  if Australia by including a 200 kilometre radius option.

On a brief search for psychologists who specialise in work stress or workplace bullying, the large Australian capital cities had plenty of listings.  Darwin came up empty as did Cairns, Alice Springs and Broom but these are remote locations and there may be psychologists in those areas who could provide assistance on workplace psychosocial issues, just not as specialists.

The “Find a Psychologist” directory is very easy to use and could be used by other member organisations as a template for their own databases.  The APS website should be flagged by Australian OHS professionals who need he services of psychologists for workplace psychosocial assistance.

Kevin Jones

Three OHS case studies 2

The South Australian Industrial Court made three decisions in late July 2009 that are useful cases to look at in order to promote improved health and safety practices but also, in one particular case, to note the approval and endorsement of the judge in the post-incident actions of the employer.

As the SafeWork SA media notice states

“All received 25 per cent discounts from their fines in recognition of their guilty pleas, cooperation, contrition and remedial action to improve their safety systems.”

Case 1

“Bluebird Rail Operations Pty Ltd was fined $30,000 over an incident at its Kilburn workshop in March 2007.  A worker’s arm was crushed beneath a 1,500 kilogram sidewall, which broke loose when a lifting lug failed as it was being lifted to a rail freight wagon under construction.

The court heard that SafeWork SA’s investigation revealed deficiencies in the equipment used, the work processes and the communication channels.

While the worker suffered permanent and debilitating injuries, his employer provided ongoing support including education and training. The employee returned to work after several months and has been promoted within the organisation.”

This case reports a surprisingly short rehabilitation period for a crushed arm.  The words of Magistrate Lieschke should be of considerable note to those OHS professionals who want their clients and companies to go beyond compliance.

“I accept that Bluebird Rail facilitated Mr Sewell’s return to work, in accordance with its legal obligations to provide vocational rehabilitation.  I accept that Bluebird Rail has gone beyond its minimum legal obligations and has provided further re-education support to Mr Sewell, sufficient for him to complete a Diploma in Project Management and for him to now be studying an engineering degree at university. The degree course is being funded by Bluebird Rail.  That is commendable support. Mr Sewell has been promoted and is now working as an assistant project manager.”

Case 2

“International Tastes Pty Ltd was fined $20,250 today after an incident in which an employee had his arm caught in the rotating blades of a pasta-making machine at the company’s Glynde premises in January 2007.

The court was told that the employee was taught to operate the machine with the safety guard open, the interlock switch which would have stopped the machine from operating in such cases was not working, and no safety checks or procedures were in place for either the machine or the tasks involved with its use.

The 24 year old victim suffered fractures, lacerations and nerve damage resulting in a number of operations and considerable pain and suffering.  He has since returned to work interstate with a related company.”

Safety professionals constantly argue for interlocks that cannot be bypassed.  This case shows that the relatively young worker suffered considerably from the incident and has moved interstate to continue with his career.

The judgement raises issues of deep concern to OHS professionals in relation to the level of supervision and induction required for workers and the perennial issue of machine guarding.  The judgement reports the circumstances of the incident:

“On 23 January 2007 [Mr B] suffered serious right arm injuries while operating a pasta making machine in accordance with a method he had recently been taught.  He had received on the job training only and was not given the benefit of any written work procedures.  He had been taught to work in close proximity to unguarded rotating blades.

While using a two litre plastic container to collect pasta mix from the machine the container came into contact with the exposed rotating blades of the adjacent mixing bowl, which in turn dragged his right arm into the blades.”

Case 3

“Central Glass Pty Ltd was fined $9,375 having been prosecuted over an incident in February 2007 at its Salisbury factory, where it makes aluminium window components.

Two workers were manually lifting a slippery steel die weighing 95 kilograms to place it in a press.  In doing so, the die slipped crushing the fingertip of one worker and narrowly missing their feet as it fell to the ground from about waist height.

SafeWork SA told the court there were no safety procedures for the task and the injury could have been averted through the use of mechanical lifting gear, which was later purchased.”

This case can relate to the concept that existed for some time in Australia of a “safe lifting weight”.  This concept has been shown to be a myth as it focuses on only one part of the work process and assumes that the particular lift is outside the other lifting actions that a worker may have been performing previously. It also assumes that everyone has a similar lifting capacity.

The judgement of this case provides more detail

“On 16 February 2007 Central Glass Pty Ltd unnecessarily exposed its employee [Mr R] to a risk of serious injury at work.

With the help of another worker [Mr R]was required to manually lift an oily 95kg steel die from ground level and place it in a close fitting slot in a press at about waist height.  While doing so the die slipped and crushed one of [Mr R’s]fingers.  The die then fell to the ground narrowly missing the feet of [Mr R]and of his colleague. [Mr R] suffered a crush injury to the tip of his left middle finger.

Central Glass had not previously carried out any hazard identification and risk assessment process in relation to changing and fitting dies.  It did not have any safe work procedure for this task and did not provide adequate safety control measures such as mechanical lifting assistance.”

Kevin Jones

New OHS research on the limits of management based regulation 7

The National Research Centre for Occupational Health and Safety Regulation at the Australian National University is one of the few Australian research centres who provide free access to their data.  The number is growing but is still way behind institutions overseas.

Pages from wp%20-       -1.72813E-062unningham     0x1.8e0c80p-893nd              (null)inclair coverThe latest research report they have released concerns management-based regulations as opposed to prescriptive regulations.  Australia and many other countries have moved away from prescriptive OHS rules but this research by Neil Gunningham and Darren Sinclair has some good points on establishing workplace safety cultures by looking at a couple of case studies.

The abstract says

“The paper argues that notwithstanding the heavy emphasis currently being placed on both internal (company driven) and external (government driven) management-based regulation, a commitment at corporate level does not necessarily percolate down to individual facilities where ritualistic responses or resistant sub-cultures may thwart effective change. The findings have important implications for the effectiveness of management based regulation and meta-regulation more broadly.” (my emphasis)

The researchers go on to discuss the spread of shared values and shared meaning, how individuals and small units can thwart the good management intentions by a lack of organisational trust, through a literature review as well as the case studies and empirical data

For anyone who is the least bit interested in establishing a workplace safety culture, the following quote should get them downloading this report.

“Management based regulation does not ignore the challenges of engaging with group behavior. Indeed, its proponents assert that the capacity to achieve cultural change is one of its attributes (Welford 1997).  But whether, to what extent, or in what circumstances this is the case remains a matter of conjecture. Certainly changing cultures is no easy matter and it may well be far more difficult for senior management to manipulate than many organizational theorists assume (Morgan 1986:139).  Yet without cultural commitment on the part of those who are expected to implement the system, then edicts from regulators or (in the case of internal regulation) from senior management, may be met with creative compliance (McBarnet & Whelan 1999), resistance, “ritualism” (Merton 1968; Braithwaite 2008a:140-56) or various other forms of tokenism.”

Kevin Jones

New Work/Life Research Reply

There seems to be new institutes and academic schools popping up regularly over research into the issue of work/life balance.  Recently one of the oldest and most prominent of the institutes, the Centre for Work + Life at the University of South Australia, released new research data.AWALI--full cover

The latest Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) was released in late July 2009.  The executive summary identifies several important issues relevant to OHS:

“Three years of data about work-life interference in Australia tell us that many employees experience frequent interference from work in their personal, home and community lives, many feel overloaded at work and feelings of time pressure are also common and growing.”

“Work hours are central to work-life interference….. Many Australians are a long way from their preferred working hours and the 2008/09 economic downturn has not made any difference to the incidence of this mismatch.”

The work by Barbara Pocock and others at the Centre is characterised by recommendations for improvements rather than simply describing a situation.  In this data the researchers say

“Our AWALI reports over the past three years suggest that employers and public policy makers can help workers deal with work-life pressures.  This involves improving the quality of supervision and workplace culture, controlling workloads, designing ‘do-able’ jobs, reducing long working hours and work-related commuting, increasing employee-centered flexibility and options for permanent part-time work, improving the fit between actual and preferred hours and increasing care supports.”

It is obvious from these comments that OHS professionals need to work hard on these matters to create, or maintain, their workplace safety cultures.

Kevin Jones

New Cleaning Standard Reply

The Victorian Government has released a revised cleaning standard for the hospital and healthcare sectors but many others would find the information of direct relevance, particularly those who like to state they meet “world’s best practice”.

The standard is supported by a good short newsletter.

Many businesses and industry OHS professionals can feel like they are audited to death.  This is particularly so in the healthcare sector so it is with interest that the government has dropped the lodgement of scores for internal audits.  However the benchmarking exercise will continue with three annual external audits.

Those SafetyAtWorkBlog readers who are also auditors, inside and outside the health system, may find the overview on auditors of interest.

Kevin Jones

OHS campaign on accommodation Reply

WorkSafe Western Australia has announced a campaign on improving the OHS of workers in the accommodation sector for the next twelve months.  The campaign is supported by a newsletter which includes a very useful safety checklist.  WorkSafe WA has specified on its website, the following areas of interest:

Electrical Safety – provision and testing of residual current devices, maintenance of electrical equipment i.e. exposed electrical wires

Manual tasks – ensuring training, safe work systems/procedures, provision of equipment, supervision and consultation are in place;

Slips trips and falls – ensuring employees are not exposed to slippery floors, uneven surfaces or blocked walkways.

Sharps and Body fluids – ensuring that employees are aware of the hazards associated with dealing with sharps and body fluids and procedures are in place

Hazardous Substances – ensuring a hazardous substance register and material safety data sheets are available, that risk assessments have been completed and training provided to employees who use such substances.

Kevin Jones

The safety of “green” jobs 4

At the Australian Labor Party conference currently happening in Sydney, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, announced a program to create “green” jobs or jobs from the renewable energy and environmental sectors.

The program sounds a lot like the previous (Conservative) government’s Jobs for the Dole scheme – same unemployment sector different focus.  Rudd’s program is more “Jobs for the Globe”.   The environment needs all the hope that it can get but will the participants of the green job scheme gain marketable skills or is it a case of keeping idle hands active?

Regardless, there is an OHS context to environmental initiatives.

The United States seems to be well ahead of Australia in this policy area.  The NIOSH Science Blog reports on the US programs which are supported by OHS initiatives at the planning stage.  The blog lists the types of green jobs in the US:

  • installation and maintenance of solar panels and generators;
  • construction and maintenance of wind energy turbines;
  • jobs related to recycling;
  • jobs related to the manufacture of green products; and
  • jobs where green products are used in traditional fields such as agriculture, healthcare, and the service sector

In a media release not yet publicly available, Kevin Rudd has listed the Australian green jobs in his “National Green Jobs Corps”:

  • Bush regeneration and planting native trees
  • Wildlife and fish habitat protection
  • Walking and nature track construction/restoration; and
  • Training and hands on experience in the installation of energy efficiencies for buildings.

Huh??  One out of four for marketable skills.

There are several apprentice initiatives which may provide better skills but the Government will need to generate considerable growth in the renewable sector so that the skills gained can be applied.

• Revegetating bushland
• Constructing a boardwalk over vulnerable wetland
• Retrofitting energy efficient lighting and plumbing

Rudd said at the ALP Conference that

“The practical job-ready skills included in this training will include:

  • Training electricians in the installation of solar energy;
  • Training plumbers in the installation of water-recycling, plumbing systems; and
  • Training workers in the booming home insulation industry and the retro-fitting of buildings to reduce energy consumption”

It would have been visionary for the Prime Minister to mention the broader social benefit from also making sure that the young workers in this new sectors will be safe.  It could have been done as the NIOSH blog reports.

And the NIOSH initiatives show that OHS professionals and associations need to be active in reminding governments and business that OHS does not take a holiday.

Kevin Jones

    New Bachelor degree in OHS 6

    A new Bachelor degree in OHS is being offered at the University of Queensland.  Professor of Occupational Health and Safety Mike Capra says in a media release that

    “graduates would become a new generation of highly-trained OHS specialists who would be in demand due to a workforce shortage.”

    The New South Wales WorkCover has had to remind employers not to cut corners on safety due to the tough economic climate.  With the unemployment rate increasing in Australia, the demand claimed by Professor Capra is disputable.

    The issue of employability was raised in a discussion forum recently.  One person pointed out that employers are able to be more selective.  When they have to choose between a graduate fresh from university or an applicant with experience, experience will win every time.

    It will be interesting to see what programs the Bachelor Degree has in place to provide the necessary practical experience.

    Hopefully on graduation in 2015, the career opportunities have improved with a stronger economy.

    Professor Capra is quoted further.

    “The program was developed at the request of the OHS industry, including peak body the Safety Institute of Australia, which saw the need for a professional qualification in the field,” Professor Capra said.  “The lack of well-qualified OHS professionals is causing alarm among members of major OHS associations, government authorities and employers.”

    The biggest motivation for improved professionalism has come from WorkSafe Victoria through the Health and Safety Professionals Alliance, and only within the last couple of years.  It is is the “alarm” of the OHS regulator that seems to have been the biggest factor.  At least WorkSafe  is willing to fund the development of such a program having provided a grant of almost $A400,000 recently.

    Some of the claims in the promotional video for the course are dubious (“never be out of a job”, for example) and the video could pass, in parts, for a tourism ad, but if the target audience is school leavers, the focus on fun, sun and job variety is probably relevant.

    If it is the first course of its kind in Australia, as claimed, it will be very interesting to watch how it is received.

    Kevin Jones

    UK’s HSE wants OHS professionals to be accredited 3

    In early July 2009, the Chair of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Judith Hackitt spoke in favour of an accreditation system for OHS professionals.  This has particular relevance for those countries and professionals associations which follow some of the UK initiatives.

    Hackitt is quoted in the HSE media release said:

    “We do believe that there is a need for an accreditation system within the competency framework for health and safety professionals. We have no interest in HSE directly controlling or regulating such a scheme, but we are very keen to ensure that all professional bodies who establish an accreditation scheme do so in a way that measures competence in practice, not just acquired knowledge.

    “Accreditation must include continuing professional development as a requirement as well as a means of sanction, with real teeth, for anyone who acts unethically in their professional activities – including providing inappropriate advice or guidance.”

    She said that those involved in health and safety needed to be competent to assess and manage risk by applying common sense, taking a proportionate approach and exercising judgment about what is reasonable.

    Competence is one of the cornerstones of the new health and safety strategy for Great Britain, and HSE wants to see increased competence as the basis of a more sensible and proportionate approach to managing risk.”

    SafetyAtWorkBlog asked the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) for their response on the issues raised in Hackitt’s speech.  The response is below

    Richard Jones, IOSH’s policy and technical director, said: “IOSH has long advocated some form of official accreditation of the health and safety profession. It is something that has been mooted for many years, but has never had formal government support, so has never got off the ground.

    “The present system in the UK means that anyone can operate as a health and safety consultant. This means some businesses are likely to be getting advice from health and safety consultants with inadequate qualifications and experience or none at all. We feel this is wrong. You wouldn’t have an unqualified doctor looking after your medical needs, so why should you put lives at risk because of incompetent health and safety advice.

    “Employers have repeatedly asked for better guidance on how to identify competent assistance, so they can be sure they’re getting good quality health and safety advice. We believe an accreditation scheme will help reassure them about the competence and suitability of the person they’re engaging.”

    Richard added: “IOSH has been actively pushing the need for accreditation for some years now, in evidence to two select Committee Inquiries, through our ‘Get the best’ campaign and lobbying activities, and more recently through our ‘manifesto’. We’ve had discussions with government, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), MPs and other stakeholders on the need for an accreditation system for health and safety practitioners.

    “We believe the majority of consultants are doing good work and providing a valuable service. IOSH’s professional development scheme helps ensure our members keep their knowledge and skills at a satisfactory level. However, the scheme obviously doesn’t apply to those who aren’t members of IOSH. Our hope is that an accreditation scheme will mean that all those working in the health and safety field have sufficient qualification, skills and knowledge to do the job properly and are maintaining these on a regular basis.

    “At a meeting on 21 July, representatives from the HSE and key health and safety organisations came together to discuss an accreditation scheme for health and safety consultants. These stakeholders will now form a ‘steering group’ looking to take the proposal forward. It is hoped that an accreditation scheme could be introduced by around autumn 2010.”

    Some Australian readers may want to keep an internet eye on the Australian OHS professionals’ alliance HaSPA.

    Kevin Jones

    Tasmanian Premier talks of workers compensation fairness Reply

    On 26 July 2009, the Tasmanian Premier, David Bartlett spoke at the Tasmanian ALP conference.  Below is an extract from his speech in which he refers to the State’s review of workers compensation, the Clayton Report, and reflects the national industrial relations agenda by emphasising the Australian Labor Party’s favourite word of the day – “fair”.

    “Delegates,

    Not only must we act to keep Tasmanians safer on our roads – but so too in our workplaces.

    The Labor Party began as we shall continue – as representatives of the working men and women of Tasmania.

    That is why I am pleased that we have finally been able to reform the workers compensation provisions in this State, to return a fairer balance and provide the protection that workers deserve.

    I have met people as Premier who have suffered terrible injuries at work.

    I met a man last year who’d lost all the fingers on one hand, and yet had not been able to access the level of worker’s compensation that he so clearly and richly deserved.

    That is not fair, and that’s why we’re changing it.

    Unlike our opponents, who enthusiastically supported the flawed and unfair WorkChoices regime, we stand for a fair go for Tasmanian workers.

    Some will say we’ve gone too far.  But this is about decency and dignity.

    And it’s about respect for working people, and providing workers with the support and protections that they deserve.”

    Kevin Jones