SafetyAtWorkBlog gains a 2012 top blog honour 6

SafetyAtWorkBlog is proud to accept the honour of being one of the 2012 honorees of LexisNexis’ Top 25 Blogs for Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Issues. According to Lexis Nexis’ website:

“For a number of years now, Australian editor Kevin Jones has been writing and compiling an excellent mix of “news, commentary and opinion” on workplace safety and health in “the Land Down Under.” Aided by several other contributors, Jones offers timely and interesting entries that should interest workers’ compensation professionals in North America, as well. The blog takes a broad and thoughtful swath.”

We strongly recommend that SafetyAtWorkBlog readers look at the other honorees for 2012.

Thank you to all our readers and contributors. We hope to continue for some time.

Kevin Jones

OHS Honour missed but well-deserved 2

Following the SafetyAtWorkBlog article about the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours, a reader has brought a well-deserved OHS recipient to our attention that we, and many others, missed.

Ian Ewart received the medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his services to his local community in Traralgon however I knew Ian through his involvement with the Gippsland OHS Network, a safety group in a regional part of Victoria renown for its electricity generation.  His creation of that network was an important part of his nomination.

Very little more information has appeared in the official Honours websites and notifications but a colleague of Ian’s has provided the extract from his nomination:

“Ian’s employment in the safety industry began in 1979 when he was appointed as a training officer by the National Safety Council of Australia. Various safety roles followed until his retirement from full-time employment in June 2009. Not content to retire, Ian then established an OH&S consultancy business to continue to service those who wished to retain his expertise. More…

SafeWorkSA executive receives Queen’s Birthday honour 3

Every year I look through the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in Australia, looking for somebody who has been awarded an honour for services to occupational health and safety.  Almost every year, there is nothing but in 2012 one person was awarded a Public Service Medal “for outstanding public service in the area of occupational health and safely.”

This year, Michele Patterson, Executive Director of SafeWork SA was awarded the Public Service Medal.  There is an outline of the justification for the award online  (at page 389).


Kevin Jones

Safety leadership and culture require accountability 11

At the recent Safe Work Australia Awards, the Minister for Workplace Relations had a dig at “safety culture“, according to an article from the National Safety Council of Australia.   Bill Shorten said :

“It is not the systems or the fancy talk about culture that will save people’s lives.”

This has been interpreted by some as Shorten disparaging the advocates of safety culture.  I agree that safety culture can be used as a euphemism for “Act of God” and therefore take no preventative action but safety culture is not designed by Gods, it is designed and implemented by Chief Executive Officers and Boards of Directors, often under the rubric of “leadership”. More…

Award winner illustrates a potential new approach to small business OHS support 2

The most interesting winner at the Safe Work Australia was a small greengrocer, The Hub Fruit Bowl.  This family run business improved their occupational health and safety management system (OHSMS) with little more than a free “Small Business Safety Pack” from SafeWorkSA (no longer available on the SafeWorkSA website).  This is a remarkable contrast to the, presumably expensive, Dupont-based achievement of Australian construction company, Grocon.  The win also illustrates the continued importance of the need for free, or cheap, practical plain safety advice. (Why isn’t there a Dummies Guide to Workplace Safety?)

The Hub Fruit Bowl’s achievement could have far-reaching effects as the low-cost approach can be applied to thousands of small businesses in Australia.   The greengrocer has a healthy record of providing young people with their first jobs, jobs that include a solid understanding of workplace health and safety.  The Grocon experience is more corporate and very common where solutions are sought from outside one’s business.

The Hub Fruit Bowl’s win should encourage OHS regulators to reassess their small business OHS strategies.  Instead of funding OHS consultants to provide three or six hours of OHS advice, frequent encouragement and engagement with small business, structured round documented processes may be more effective.  SafeWorkSA does not mention the concept of “case managers” but applying this to harm and injury prevention strategies may have merit.  Providing sustained support and encouragement instead of a quick intense session should be seriously considered by OHS regulators.

It may also be useful to consider providing pro-bono safety services to small businesses, as a civic duty but also to freshen the experiences of safety professionals.

Kevin Jones

Australian OHS awards need reviewing now more than ever 1

The various government safety awards process in Australia needs a thorough coordinated review in order to maintain their relevance.  Earlier last year WorkSafe Victoria tried a new strategy to increase community participation in their awards process.  This involved monthly mini-awards and nominees calling on their friends and professional networks for support and votes.  It was worth a try but WorkSafe Victoria went it alone and it will be difficult to sustain this strategy without broader support, probably from the other States.

SafetyAtWorkBlog stated following last year’s national safety awards ceremony that change was required but no one took up the challenge.  The need for review was even more evident at this year’s Safe Work Australia Awards held last week.  The lacklustre atmosphere could have been partly due to an MC, Paul McDermott, who is more comfortable piercing the pretensions of institutions.  In these awards, it would have been rude to make fun of workplace safety.  McDermott understood this and could only make jokes of his own brushes with danger, such as having his scrotum pierced with a winklepinker. But it is more likely that the awards had more serious deficiencies. More…

Bill Shorten speaks at the Safe Work Australia Awards 1

Australia’s Employment and Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten had a very busy day on 26 April 2012 with the recent actions over the management of the Health Services Union.  Tha evening he spoke eloquently and passionately at the Annual Safe Work Australia Awards. Not only did he speak but he also spent several hours speaking with award finalists winners. At these sorts of functions many politicians cannot wait to escape. But Bill Shorten is enormously well qualified for his role as the minister for employment relations, including workplace safety.

He diverged strongly from his written speech yet there was one section that he clearly felt strongly about and it is a point that many safety professionals should remember:

“Hazards and risks and the entire approach to risk assessment and risk management generally do not address what really happens at work. Beaconsfield gold mine had such a system. Longford oil and gas refinery had such a system before sections of it blew up in 1998.

It is not the systems or the fancy talk about culture that will save people’s lives.” (link added) More…

New Workers’ Memorial announced for Australia 10

In May 2011, the Australian Government announced the development of a National Worker’s Memorial.  The winning design, selected by an independent jury from a competitive pool of 26 entries, was announced in Canberra this evening.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten announced that Architects Johnson Pilton Walker have been awarded the task.  In a media statement Shorten said that

 “The memorial will honour and pay tribute to all working Australians who have died as a result of work-related accidents, incidents and disease… It will also provide an important focal point for the national commemoration of Workers’ Memorial Day, recognised internationally on 28 April each year.” More…

Victorian WorkSafe Awards raise eyebrows and questions 1

Last week, WorkSafe Victoria held its 2011 Work Safe Awards night.  The host was Shane Jacobson, probably most well-known for his film Kenny.  SafetyAtWorkBlog has been informed that WorkSafe’s Executive Director, Ian Forsythe, was approached by an attendee on the evening complaining about the inappropriateness of some of Jacobs0n’s jokes and comments.

WorkSafe Victoria has been contacted for clarification of this complaint but as an attendee oneself, there were several times that laughter was subdued and eyebrows raised, particularly with one dubious homosexual reference and a joke about wives and guns.


A further, more general, concern was expressed to SafetyAtWorkBlog on the night about the awarding of one award to a person who is contracted by WorkSafe to promote OHS in rural areas.  The concern raises the issue again about the benefits of having a transparent judging criteria, or judging process, for safety awards. More…

Victoria risks $50 million over OHS reforms 7

A SafetyAtWorkBlog article from last week said that Victoria’s Work Safe Week started flat and that speakers at some events were unsure of the future of OHS laws due to Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips‘ unprecedented call to the Federal Government for a 12-month delay.

A spokesperson for the Federal Minister for Industrial Relations, Chris Evans, has told SafetyAtWorkBlog that Victoria is risking $A50 million of federal government funding if it does not implement OHS reforms:

“….the Victorian Government has already factored in around $50 million in reward payments for the 2011-12 budget forward estimates. These reward payments are dependent on Victoria implementing agreed reforms in accordance with key milestones. This includes OHS reform.”

This economic reality is perhaps behind Rich-Phillips’ continuing emphasis that the Victorian Government continues to support the “principle” of harmonisation.

At the 2011 Work Safe Awards on 19 October 2011, Minister  Rich-Phillips seemed to identify a strategy that is contrary to the application of that principle.   More…