Evidence needed for the productivity benefits of workplace safety

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One of the arguments that occupational health and safety (OHS) consultants use to convince employers of the importance of workplace safety is that good safety management will increase productivity through the reduction of disruptive incidents.  But there are various types of productivity. Multi-factorial productivity (what business lobbyists usually talk about) is declining in Australia BUT labour productivity has been steadily increasing for years, until only recently.

Crikey newsletter keeps pointing out this reality to its readers because the official data is being ignored by many business commentators and advocates who continue to claim that (labour) productivity is declining or in crisis.  The discussion usually revolves around company tax rates but it is an important differentiation for OHS professionals and safety advocates.

It seems that workers and companies have taken heed of the urging to work smarter and not harder but how does OHS fit with all of this? It is difficult to know because any correlation between OHS data and labour productivity has not yet been made.  (Partly this is because OHS data continues to be based on workers’ compensation claims rather than incident data and associated costs; I’ve banged on about that enough). It may be that good safety management = less incidents = greater productivity = greater profits but the evidence for that flow does not seem to exist outside of anecdotes or vague economic logic.

And it is evidence that the OHS profession is going to need if it is to continue using the productivity/safety/disruption argument in a very crowded and competitive market of business consultants.

Kevin Jones

When workplace behaviour becomes insidious

In previous writings about gender and occupational health and safety (OHS), the work of Jerald Greenberg was mentioned, particularly his book “Insidious Workplace Behaviour”.  His perspective seems even more pertinent today as many of us are weaving our way cautiously through communications and interactions with our work colleagues as we clarify what is acceptable behaviour so as to avoid offence or accusations of bullying and sexual harassment.

SafetyAtWorkBlog’s position is that sexual harassment is part of OHS and safety management systems due to the potential physical and psychological harm, in a similar way that bullying became an OHS concern.

Greenberg researches organisational behaviour and has written about corporate misdeeds and misbehaviour but he identified many precursors to some of these incidents.

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OHS is not all about workers compensation data

Every couple of months, after the release of official workplace fatality figures and serious injury, the Australian media reports the three most dangerous industries as Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry.  The latest article appeared in Australia’s Fairfax Media on 17 January 2018.  It is good that occupational health and safety (OHS) is gaining attention.  When so little media attention is given, any publicity is useful.

However this type of article also presents some negatives, including that it may be only representing 60% of all workplace fatalities and serious injuries.

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NSW hearing tests postponed because of a National WHS review

In 2018, Marie Boland will be conducting an independent review of Australia’s Work Health and Safety laws to see if the laws are

“… achieving their original objectives, and if they have resulted in any unintended consequences.”

We may already be seeing one of the unintended consequences.  On December 22, 2017, SafeWork NSW granted an exemption on audiometric testing requirements. 

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Two new audio readings

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Several past SafetyAtWorkBlog articles have been posted in SoundCloud as audio files.  One article is a reading of two articles from last year about Queensland’s industrial manslaughter laws.

The other reminds us that sexual harassment and sexual assault did not appear in relation to Harvey Weinstein accusations.  The Australian Human Rights Commission report into sexual assault on university campuses provides an additional context to sexual harassment and workplace health and safety.

Both articles are also available below:

Industrial Manslaughter

Sexual Assault in Universities

Kevin Jones