What is a safety professional and what do they do?

David Provan recently provided access to one of his research papers through LinkedIn while it is open. The paper is a literature review of the factors shaping the role of a safety professional.  It is a difficult and confusing read until one reaches the Conclusion.  This is not Provan’s fault but is an indication of the confusing and conflicting roles, actions, obligations and qualifications of the occupational health and safety (OHS) professional revealed by the research literature.

However, the Conclusion provides a good summary of all the literature with some useful strategies to improve the OHS conversation.

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Grenfell Tower and other incidents illustrate major deficiencies in OHS perceptions

A recent investigative report into workplace safety at Los Alamos laboratory in the United States included this statement:

“The Center’s probe revealed worker safety risks, previously unpublicized accidents, and dangerously lax management practices at other nuclear weapons-related facilities. The investigation further found that penalties for these practices were relatively light, and that many of the firms that run these facilities were awarded tens of millions of dollars in profits in the same years that major safety lapses occurred. Some were awarded new contracts despite repeated, avoidable accidents, including some that exposed workers to radiation.”

The whole article deserves reading but this paragraph in particular illustrates that deficiencies in procurement apply to large organisations in high risk sectors just as much as it can in the small to medium-sized business sector.  A major reason is that detailed and diligent procurement has been seen as red tape and it seems to have taken disasters like Grenfell Tower to illustrate the moral deficiencies and short-term economic fantasies of

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Important research into domestic violence strengthens OHS context

It is useful to consider corporate wellness and mental wellbeing programs in the context of work-related suicides.  By considering what many consider a worst-case scenario, the effectiveness of these programs can be tested.  The increased attention on domestic violence and its relationship to work over the last few years in Australia can play a similar role. New research on “intimate partner violence” provides mental health scenarios for which safety professionals need to be prepared. Continue reading “Important research into domestic violence strengthens OHS context”

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Road safety needs a systems approach to investigations

A company vehicle is a workplace.  This is not a radical statement, or shouldn’t be.  A worker driving the company vehicle is at work, transporting themselves or some goods somewhere as part of the work process. Yet most traffic accidents in Australia are not assessed to determine whether they are work-related and action is rarely taken by the occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators who seem comfortable with their secondary information gathering role in traffic accidents.

With the failure of the trade union movement’s efforts to maintain the existence of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, others are stepping up pressure on Australia’s government to address some traffic accidents as work-related. And there is some important local independent research that seems to support this push.

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The challenges of Todd Conklin

Earlier this month SafetyAtWorkBlog published an article based on an anecdote by Todd Conklin about a glove.  There was much more that Conklin shared at the SafeGuard conference in New Zealand.  Below are several of his slides/aphorisms/questions that may challenge the way you think about managing occupational health and safety (OHS) in your workplace.

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Insurer-led rehabilitation case management does not work

On the eve of a Return-to-Work symposium in Hobart, Alex Collie, challenged the a seminar audience, as all good speakers should.  His analysis of research data has found the following confronting information:

  • “main service delivery mechanism (case management) is ineffective at best, harmful at worst,
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New report provides important data on occupational health

A recent report from the UK Society of Occupational Medicine highlights several issues of note to the occupational health and safety (OHS) professional. But it is also worth looking at the SOM’s media release.

As well as offering financial costs and benefits of good occupational health management the full report also contextualises occupational health:

“The report cites a survey of 1,000 UK employers in which respondents gave their most common reasons to spend on health and wellbeing initiatives as: a motivated and healthy workforce is more productive (41%); to attract and retain staff (25%); to be perceived as a caring employer that takes duty of care requirements seriously (21%). Meanwhile, a survey of 1,000 employees found that they were more likely to choose an employer who took employee health and wellbeing seriously (66%) and would feel they have a duty to work harder for such an employer (43%). The survey results are reflective of the intangible as well as tangible benefits of occupational health.”

Continue reading “New report provides important data on occupational health”

Safety Culture and/or safetyculture

Kevin Jones speaking a SafetyCulture’s Sydney office

SafetyAtWorkBlog and others have been critical of some of the products and practices of Australia safety company SafetyCulture. However Luke Anear, SafetyCulture’s CEO invited me to speak at a briefing for his staff and this seemed a good opportunity to better understand his company.

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Do open plan offices and sit/stand desks create as many problems as they solve?

The mainstream media regularly includes articles and, increasingly, advertorials, about the modern workplace, usually office buildings, that are designed to foster creativity, communication, productivity and improve physical health.  In many of these workplaces, it quickly becomes apparent that there are never enough meeting rooms for confidential discussions, making the coffee shop in the foyer or a nearby building, essential venues for conversations that would, in the past, be conducted in an office.

It also does not take long for a lot of the workers to be at their desks wearing earbuds or headphones in order to negate the noise that the modern workplace allows and creates.  This need for isolation and concentration is contrary to the intentions of the office designers.  It is not simply a reflection of the modern ipod technology but a human desire for privacy, focus, diligence and productivity.  New research  seems to indicate that the situation is not helped by sit/stand desks.

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