Workplace bullying submissions show industry misses the whole point 6

The period for public comment on Australia’s latest draft of its workplace bullying code has completed. The available submissions are online. The submissions from several employer and industry associations reveal an ideological stance on workplace bullying that should generate great concern by OHS professionals and regulators as they impede change by missing the real purpose of the workplace bullying code.

Code or Guidance

One of those submission is that of the Australian Mines and Metals Association‘s (AMMA). One of the AMMA’s key points on the draft code is that:

“The type of information contained in this document should not be in a code but in guidance material to allow more flexible responses;”

This point has been made many times before and most vehemently when WorkSafe Victoria introduced its workplace bullying guidance well over a decade ago.  The Victorian experience is that a workplace bullying guidance has made very little difference to the management of bullying.  The bullying cause celebre in Victoria has been the death of Brodie Panlock and the prosecution of the bullies, which occurred only after a coronial inquiry.  This incident occurred during the operation of WorkSafe’s bullying guidance.  One could ask if the bullying would have been less likely to occur if the guidance had been a Code?  A further question could be whether the prosecution of the bullies would have occurred more promptly or the penalties more severe if the guidance had been a code of practice? More…

New safety harness removes suspension trauma and may improve safety 8

It is rare to see any major innovation in in the area of working at heights, particularly in relation to fall protection harnesses.  Yet coming soon to the Australian and New Zealand markets, via the Galahad Group, is the ZT Safety Harness, a fall arrest harness without a groin strap.

The ZT Safety Harness has been designed to eliminate the potential for suspension trauma which can result from being suspended for some time in a traditional harnesses.  A video is perhaps the best way to understand this harness which, in the absence of the groin strap, is integrated into a pair of work trousers or coveralls with webbing extending down the leg of the trousers to gaiters on the lower calf.  This configuration provides for a suspended worker to be in a seated position with the shock from the fall being distributed more evenly along the body.

There are advantages other than the elimination of suspension trauma.  More…

Workplace drug data needs a creative application Reply

Pages from policy talk - workplace alcohol and other drug programs - australian drug foundation - july 2013On 12 July 2013 the Australian Drug Foundation reported that alcohol use is responsible for:

  • five per cent of all Australian workplace deaths, and
  • up to 11 per cent of non-fatal injuries.

These figures should be of great concern to everyone but what if these figures generate no concern and no outrage, and no change?

The significance of the research data above and in the full document – Workplace alcohol and other drug programs: What is good practice? - is not in the research but in the potential responses to the research. More…

A busy week in Victoria – politics, reviews and common law 2

Victorian Workcover Authority (VWA),was in the pages of the Australian Financial Review in July 2013 over several issues -

  • CEO Denise Cosgrove told staff of her wonderful holiday in  Daylesford in the same email in which she advised of a review of operating budgets “including people costs” and of job losses,
  • Former Minister for Workcover, Roger Hallam, has been appointed to undertake a review of the Victorian Workcover Authority ,
  • Hallam is said to have been on the panel that appointed Cosgrove recently to the CEO post,
  • Cosgrove has pushed for a change in common law (Common law was controversially dropped during Roger Hallam’s time as Minister).

There seems to be many issues bubbling away at VWA – common law, declining profitability, “dividends” and a secret review. More…

How good intentions can lead to workplace deaths 16

The recent coronial finding into three workplace deaths related to an Australian government economic stimulus package in 2009 has muddled the safety profession over the political context and the OHS context of these deaths.  But the finding and resulting discussions could be the catalyst for a much-needed analysis of how decisions made with good intentions in Canberra can lead to the tragic personal and shopfloor decisions in the suburbs.

Nanny State

The Home Insulation Program (HIP) could have been interpreted as government “interference” in the market and been badged as “nanny state” economics.  However it may be possible to argue that Prime Minister Rudd could have been an economic hero if the Home Insulation Program had continued without any deaths. More…

Coronial report into insulation deaths slams government actions 3

This week a Queensland Coroner brought down the findings into the deaths of three men, Matthew Fuller (25), Rueben Barnes (16) and Mitchell Sweeney (22). Each of these men were electrocuted whilst installing foil insulation in the roofs of Queensland houses as part of a Federally funded economic stimulus project during 2009 and 2012.

Since the Coroner’s findings were published on 4 July 2013, the Australian media has focussed its attention, principally, on Kevin Rudd.  Rudd was the Prime Minister and a major motivator at the time for the stimulus package, named the Home Insulation  Program or HIP by the Coroner.  Rudd recently regained the Prime Ministership providing a fresh political newsworthiness to the HIP issues.  But in this attention, the Coroner’s broad findings are often being overlooked. More…

The “if you’re not sure, ask” campaign needs “if unsafe, fix” 11

WorkSafe Victoria has asked me in the past why I do not report on some of their successful activities and promotional campaigns.  Recently WorkSafe Victoria has been running what appears to be a very successful safety campaign focusing on young workers. The campaign is called “if you’re not sure, ask“.  The television and online advertisements again feature confronting workplace injuries but the significant difference in this case is that there is a social context about body image.  This element of the campaign is very effective however, from the perspective of an old fart of a safety professional, the advertisements miss the role of the supervisor and the importance of a safe working environment.


Manual handling assessment process from Australia has merit 5

There has been little movement on the assessment and management of manual handling risks in Australia during the period of OHS/WHS harmonisation.  Just an hour or so ago, Work Health and Safety Queensland released a video that outlines its manual handling assessment program PErforM – Participative Ergonomics for Manual Tasks.

A PErforM manual for trainers seems to have been around since February 2012 but the new video should create fresh interest in the program that is supported by a new handbook.

Manual handling risk assessments are one of the most difficult tasks for business and safety people but they can also be a safety task that offers the greatest financial and worker rewards.  This initiative is a relatively new look at an old OHS problem.

Kevin Jones

Insurance over OHS prosecution hits the deterrence effect 24

In response to proven breaches of occupational health and safety laws, judges usually apply financial penalties to companies and individuals.  These penalties, like all court-ordered punishments are to deter the offenders from re-offending but also to show others the consequences of their actions.  But what if an insurance company would pay for that penalty in return for regular premium payments?  If the offender does not pay the penalty, deterrence is gone.

On 27 June 2013, a company and its director were fined $A200,000 each in relation to workplace incident that resulted in the gruesome death of one man and a near miss for another but the director had taken out a general  insurance policy and the insurance company paid out!!??.  A fine of $A200K awarded but the offender may pay no more than $A10K. More…

Very useful workplace mental health guidelines released 4

The Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) has released a set of guidelines for the prevention of mental health problems at work. Such guidelines have been sorely required in Australia where workplace mental health problems have become an increasing problem for workers and organisations and workplace bullying dominates the policy landscape. It recommends the development of a mental health and wellbeing strategy that includes the following elements:

  • “the development of a positive work environment that supports and encourages mental health
  • balancing job demands with job control
  • appropriately rewarding employees efforts
  • creating a fair workplace
  • provision of workplace supports
  • effective management of performance issues
  • provision of training to develop management and leadership skills
  • supportive change management processes More…