Serious questions raised about the effectiveness of OHS enforcement strategies 2

Richard Johnstone is always worth reading as he writes perceptively about occupational health and safety (OHS) and its enforcement.  The new book from Baywood PublishingSafety or Profit” provides a chapter by Johnstone that argues:

“…that despite the rhetoric of stronger enforcement and more robust prosecution, the dominant ideology of work health and safety enforcement – ambivalence about whether work health and safety offenses are “really criminal” and viewing prosecution as a “last resort” in the enforcement armory – still dominates the approach of Australian work health and safety regulators.” (page 113)

The importance of Johnstone’s chapter is that he reminds us that much of the current OHS debate is circular and limited and fails to question the soft enforcement strategy that has existed since the Robens Committee recommendations in the 1970s. More…

Asbestos worker supporter gains Australian honour 1

For many years Vicki Hamilton has been a tireless worker in support of those suffering from asbestos-related diseases.  She, and her colleagues at the Gippsland Asbestos Related Disease Support Inc. (GARDS), are based in regional Victoria and often struggle for recognition of their efforts.  In the 2014 Australia Honours list, Vicki was awarded an Order of Australia ” for service to the community through support for people with asbestos-related diseases”.

It is well-deserved and I congratulate her on her achievement.  I hope it, in some way, makes her job easier.

Kevin Jones

The safety features of the new Polaris set a new benchmark 8

2014.5-SprtsmnAce4x4-White_f3qThe Weekly Times scored an exclusive this week about a new model of Polaris quad bike which incorporates a roll cage or rollover protection structure (ROPS) in its design.  The significance of the Sportsman Ace is, according to the newspaper and the manufacturer, a “game changer” because it seems to counter the arguments of the quad bike manufacturers against such design changes in submissions to government and in public campaigns.  They have stressed that more effective control of a quad bike comes from driver training and behaviour and that ROPs may itself contribute to driver injuries and deaths.  The Polaris Sportsman Ace, to be released in the United States this week and Australia next month, seems to prove that quad bikes can be redesigned to include safety features, an action that manufacturers have been extremely reluctant to do.

A major critic of ROPs on quad bikes in Australia has been the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI). SafetyAtWorkBlog spoke to a spokesman for the FCAI who explained that the Polaris Sportsman Ace is not an All-Terrain Vehicle (ATV) but a UTV (Utility Terrain Vehicle). More…

A bright new book on safety communications 3

Australian marketer and communicator, Marie-Claire Ross, has moved from video to print with a new book called “Transform Your Safety Communication“.  The book  approaches safety communications from the marketing perspective and provides a terrific primer in how to write about workplace safety effectively.

Marie-Claire Ross writes that

“Too often, safety professionals are taught about compliance, but not the right skills to influence and engage others.” (page 12)

This is not a deficiency of just the OHS academia.  Such a statement would equally apply to most professions.  Commercial communication skills, those required other than for essays, assignments and theses, are rarely included in any curriculum other than journalism and marketing.  As such, this book is likely to have benefits way beyond the safety profession. More…

Safety Culture can distract from safety management 6

Mohammad Rabbi has recently written that

“…safety culture is something that must permeate an entire organization. Its application largely depends on the investment, training, employee attitude, environment, location, laws, customs and practices in the industry.  So how can organizations go about developing a safety culture?”

He is right that any safety culture has a wide range of business and social contexts but the quote, and the article, Workplace Safety Culture 101, seems to miss a couple of contextual realities.  Many of these issues quoted appear to be basic elements of business and safety management and not dependent on safety culture programs.

More…

Incident investigation findings should be shared 13

Accident reportMany people, and OHS professionals, complain about the lack of research in Australia into occupational health and safety issues.  Research is occurring but often this is inaccessible to companies, professionals and decision-makers due to unjustifiable costs for the articles and journals.  Yet there is OHS research, of a type, that can be done by any company should they choose to do so – incident investigation.

Individual investigation reports may only address one set of circumstances, those that led to an incident or, rarely but importantly, a near miss or a systems breach, but together these reports may identify a systemic problem or illustrate broader safer deficiencies in an industry sector. More…

New book provides fresh context to OHS 1

SafetyAtWorkBlog regularly receives excellent review books from the New York publishing company, BaywoodPublishing.  The latest is entitled Safety or Profit? – International Studies in Governance, Change and the Work Environment.   I have yet to get beyond the introduction to the chapters by Australian academics on precarious workers (Quinlan) and the decriminalisation of OHS (Johnstone) but the introduction is fascinating.

The most fascinating is its discussion of Lord Robens’ Report of the Inquiry into Health and Safety at Work from 1973. The editors, Theo Nichols and David Walters, question the “major advance” many claimed for the Robens report by comparing it reviews 40 years earlier.  Nichols and Walters quote the conservatism that led to Robens seeing criminal law as being “largely irrelevant”, and legal sanctions being “counter to our philosophy”.  However, they do admit that Robens was prophetic on the growth of self-regulation and the duties of care.

Nichols and Walters also remind us that the Robens-inspired Health and Safety At Work Act of 1974 did not recommend the creation of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) representatives.

More…

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