Prediction on accountability and a political kick in the balls Reply

Responsibility highlighted in greenThere will be two areas of occupational health and safety attention in the early months of 2014 in Australia – workplace bullying laws and the Royal Commission into Home Insulation Program.  The labour law firms are gearing up for a “bumper year” as one said prior to Christmas and the business groups are already lobbying/complaining/whingeing about the workplace bullying laws administered by the Fair Work Commission.  However the Royal Commission has the potential for the biggest social and ideological impact so, as the new year begins, I will attempt some predictions of the Royal Commission’s findings based around some of the terms of reference.

Substantial Change

‘the processes by which the Australian Government made decisions about the establishment and implementation of the Program, and the bases of those decisions, including how workplace health and safety and other risks relating to the Program were identified, assessed and managed;’

This paragraph is the one that could have the most long-term effect on governance, due diligence and procurement.  There are many suggestions on these issues in the sphere of project management but trying to keep the discussion in OHS, there are some useful comments on the Government procurement of services.  Australia’s Federal Safety Commission acknowledges that procurement is an important stage in project design.  WorkSafe Victoria’s “handbook for the public sector – health and safety in construction procurement” says

“As procurers, governments can promote better health and safety by requiring projects to include a range of safety measures, such as specifying the safety budget, building layout or the use of certain More…

2013 in review for SafetyAtWorkBlog Reply

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 140,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thanks 7

As 2014 is about to start I wanted to thank the readers of SafetyAtWorkBlog for your continued support.  The number of articles is down a little this year principally because the full-time work I have currently, building a railway in Victoria, has limited me to around two or three articles a week.  Yet there remains around 400 readers a day and the blog again garnered some international recognition.

Curiously in 2013 a lot of traffic has come through LinkedIn which seems to be changing from a contact network to an information network, as seen with some of the very good OHS discussion forums there.  I have had regular emails from people who read the blog solely through LinkedIn so perhaps I should be adding the LinkedIn readers to the blog’s total.

Also, I should not forget SafetyOz‘s Twitter followers as we close on 1000 followers, all of which are OHS professionals, regulators or service providers.  Twitter is another way of spreading the word about SafetyAtWorkBlog articles but it also allows for much more frequent updates on stories of the day.  It is perhaps the news bulletin to SafetyAtWorkBlog’s analysis.

My railway safety contract ends in 2014 and the future is uncertain but I will continue with articles that, it seems, spark discussion or contribute to important OHS and WHS matters.  As an OHS professional it is my duty to work on keeping people safe and I hope that I can continue to help you and the profession do the same in the future.

Kevin Jones

Media coverage on workplace bullying needs more depth and analysis 2

The Australian media has given workplace bullying the front page, probably because it is a slow news period and there have been no major disasters this Christmas period. However the coverage is of the new rules and opportunities for assistance offered by changes to the Fair Work Act that commence on 1 January 2014, rather than about prevention.

Most of the comments from the business groups in the article by The Age newspaper will be familiar from the last few months. Generally they object to what they see as red tape and increased regulation. Some also believe that workplace bullying should be handled through human resources rather than as an occupational health and safety (OHS) matter.

Red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy is a legitimate concern but one that, in large part, the business sector has allowed to happen. As discussed previously, much of the red tape originates from the risk management strategy of business where, when an issue or hazard cannot be eliminated or it is too difficult to try, insurance or liability protection is obtained. As others have said, too often the risk management of safety is corrupted to become risk management of legal issues. More…

Moral conflicts in store for Australian politicians and bureaucrats 1

iStock_000016528694XSmall2014 is going to present tough challenges to Australia’s politicians and corporate leaders.  The Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program, in particular, is going to illustrate and perhaps generate ideological conflict.

The Home Insulation Program (HIP) was established quickly to address a looming economic crisis.  Politicians and business leaders wanted Australia to avoid the global recession and they needed creative solutions.  Various importance governance and safety elements appear to have been sacrificed to achieve the economic ends.  In 2014, the politicians of the time and bureaucrats will be grilled over why they made these decisions.  Various inquiries have already identified that these decisions contributed to the deaths of four young workers.  In 2014, these decision- and policy-makers will be held to account for the fatal consequences of their economic decisions.

There has long been a conflict between the pursuit of profit and the pursuit of safe working conditions.  The Royal Commission, and the surrounding debate, is likely to place this conflict squarely in the highest levels of Australia’s government and public service.  Below are some of the issues that the Australian government and business sector are likely to face in 2014. More…

Remembering why you do what you do 5

iStock_000017872280XSmallSafety professionals often pay over A$1000 upwards to attend a workplace safety conference.  Most of these conferences are overpriced and serious questions should be asked about the knowledge return-on-investment.  It seems occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals are always looking for the next big thing, the “edge” but frequently they forget that value of old information, the value of human worth, the reason for joining the OHS profession in the first place.

Recently I attended an Annual Remembrance Service that commemorated those people who have died at work.  The theme of the service was the importance of listening, particularly, to the widows and widowers, those who are still experiencing the pain of grief and, often, the injustice of OHS regulators and workers’ compensations schemes.  The service was called “Remembering and celebrating the lives of those who have died from work-related causes” and conducted by the Creative Ministries Network and Work-related Grief Support, was small, touching and not half as religious as it could have been. More…

OHS solutions promoted but not necessarily delivered 3

All professions need spokespeople or champions who can provide informative and, hopefully, authoritative commentary on topical matters within and beyond the profession.  Australia’s safety profession has never had such a spokesperson but recently the speakers’ bureau ICMI has packaged a selection of speakers who it thinks could be appropriate. The brief for Work Health Solutions focuses almost entirely on the issues of absenteeism, lost productivity, presenteeism and creating “a more enjoyable, friendly and less threatening environment” but will these speakers provide solutions to illnesses, injuries, amputations and diseases? Can these speakers provide the solutions implied in the program?

From the information on the program’s flyer, several of the speakers seem to be able to present stories about safety-gone-wrong. Theo Venter survived electrocution. Ian Johnson was seriously burned and speaks about the risks of confined spaces. Philip Smallman was a tree surgeon who became a paraplegic after a fall. Helen Fitzroy speaks of the impact of her husband’s workplace fatality.  John Tickell has spoken at several OHS conferences and has at least contributed to a book about OHS but others are tenuous. But ICMI is also promoting speakers who are primarily event hosts or Masters of Ceremonies and at least one of them generated complaints during a WorkSafe Victoria event several years ago for inappropriate comments about women. More…

SafetyAtWorkBlog named a Top Blog by LexisNexis 10

SafetyAtWorkBlog is very proud to receive a top blog award for 2013 from LexisNexis Legal Newsroom.  Each year’s list provides important reviews on influential OHS and workers compensation blogs, principally in America.  We urge readers to investigate the other winners in this list.

On SafetyAtWork Blog, LexisNexis says

“Worker safety is an issue beyond America’s borders. For an interesting and refreshing perspective on workplace safety, one can travel electronically to the “Land Down Under” to read the work of Australian editor, Kevin Jones, and his several contributors. Offering “news, commentary and opinion” on workplace safety and health, Safetyatworkblog offers multiple posts each week. While the articles are obviously directed to Australian issues, one is drawn to the fact that the arguments ring true here as well….”

Lexis Nexis says that

“These top blog sites contain some of the best writing out there on workers’ compensation and workplace issues. They provide a wealth of information for the workers’ compensation community with timely news items, practical information, expert analysis, practice tips, and helpful links to other sites. More…

OHS consultation through social media – the new (and better) way 5

For a little while employers, government and trade unions in Australia were spreading their consultative pool on occupational health and safety (OHS) matters.  Recently that triumvirate seems to have returned to a more exclusive structure.  The reason is unclear but the situation is a backward step and one that fails to take advantage of the modern consultative technologies.

In some ways OHS in Australia seems to be moribund. Professional associations do not seem to be growing even in a time of regulatory change.  Trade union membership numbers seem to have bottomed out without much diminution of their political influence. It may be time to look at a new consultative approach that builds ownership of workplace safety on the back of the awareness marketing by the OHS regulators.  However to do so may mean that the tripartite structure be dissolved over time and that the policy development expectations of government on OHS matters be substantially revised. More…

NZ Coroner describes quad bike safety dispute as a “Mexican stand-off” Reply

Dave Robertson of Quadbar.com has provided this article on a recent finding and recommendations of a New Zealand Coroner.

A New Zealand coroner, Brandt Shortland, recently handed down his findings on five farm-based quad bike deaths (Mendoza, McInnes, Ferguson, Cornelius and Van Der Pasch) that happened within six weeks of each other.  Australian agricultural newspaper The Weekly Times reported,

“Mr Shortland [Coroner], who was a keynote speaker at a Farmsafe Australia symposium in Canberra last week, said all five deaths would have been prevented if the vehicles had Crush Protection Devices (CPD) installed”

In Coroner Shortland’s findings he found that quad bikes are best described as “error intolerant” and in the quad bike manufacturers’ view “a quad bike require a rider to make good decisions”.  One NZ media report reports the Coroner as advocating continuing rider training but that

“… training and education cannot teach common sense or good judgement.”

Shortland supports the wearing of helmets while riding quad bikes and a taskforce review into roll-over protection structures (ROPS) which increases the significance of the current Australian review.  The Coroner acknowledged the tension between safety advocates and quad bike manufacturers describing it as a “Mexican standoff”. More…