All jobs are now more dangerous

The COVID19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the government agencies that regulate and enforce occupational health and safety (OHS) laws. These regulators are not the lead agencies in pandemic control but as some countries relax lock-down protocols and people return to work in changed work environments, the role and actions of the OHS regulators are being re-evaluated.

Sarah O’Connor, in the Financial Times, opened her 26 May 2020 article brilliantly with

” Covid-19 has upended our notion of what a dangerous job looks like”

Office were often dismissed as low-risk workplaces with many site safety walks, if they happened, reporting on torn carpet and other similar hazards. That way of assessing risk should have been replaced, or supplemented, with assessments of the psychosocial risks of stress, bullying, a harassment, excessive workloads and many more harmful practices. So, offices may have a low risk of traumatic physical injuries but a higher level of risk of psychological harm. On top of this reassessment comes an infection risk that can be spread by workers showing no symptoms. Office-based risk has increased again and made the workplace itself dangerous.

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COVID19 controls for sex work safety

Source: Ian Dyball, istockphoto

Thinking about the occupational health and safety (OHS) issues of sex work is fascinating and, to some, titillating. But work is work and the OHS issues are just as real in a room in a brothel as in any other workplace. The workplace hazards presented by COVID19 to the Australian sex industry have been identified and addressed in some excellent OHS advice from Scarlet Alliance.

Sex workers need to screen clients already for visible signs of sexually transmitted diseases so personal questions about health and infections is already part of the customer relations. (There are also requirements for customers to shower or wash prior to services) The questions asked in relation to COVID19 are the same as asked elsewhere:

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Safety wins

The saga of the safety of all-terrain vehicles (ATV) in Australia is coming to a close with Honda announcing that it will not be selling its ATVs in Australia after 10th October 2021. However Honda, one of the most strident opponents of increased safety standards, is belligerent to the end.

In the media announcement of its decision, Honda says that the new safety Standard is impossible to meet on any ATV. This may be true but the quad bike manufacturers refused to accept that rider safety could be improved by redesigning the quad bike, or adding additional safety devices, to reduce the risk of rolling over. Most occupational health and safety (OHS) advocates did not argue about the validity of the safety items and actions recommended by the manufacturers – helmets, dynamic riding training etc – but saw these as supplements to after-sales crush protection devices (CPDs). The manufacturers did not.

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Victoria’s Workplace Manslaughter laws are a misdirection

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On July 1, 2020, Victoria receives the Workplace Manslaughter laws that it missed out on by a bee’s whatsit in 2002.  Premier Daniel Andrews will complete another election pledge and will be seen as a champion for Victoria’s workers.  The Workplace Manslaughter laws will provide some bereaved relatives with comfort and a belief that bad employers will be punished for neglecting their occupational health and safety (OHS) duties to provide safe and healthy work environments. Punishment is possible, but unlikely.

The first thing that Victorians need to understand is that Workplace Manslaughter laws are not about OHS, they are about politics.  It is no coincidence that both Queensland and Victoria’s Workplace Manslaughter laws emerged during election campaigns.  Both branches of the Australian Labor Party (ALP) needed to say something about workplace relations that did not involve the hotbed of industrial relations, especially when so much IR change would bring in National politics.

OHS allows people to talk about IR without the trade union politics.  OHS is not about money, it is about quality of life and who, in politics or elsewhere, will say that deaths at work are an acceptable consequence?  The ALP leaders were on a winner and were able to take some moral high ground and criticise business groups on an issue against which business leaders could not argue.

Continue reading “Victoria’s Workplace Manslaughter laws are a misdirection”

Lift us up (safely) where we belong

The safe number of people in an elevator gained the attention of Australia’s Attorney General, Christian Porter. The narrow consideration of the COVID19 risks faced by workers as they return to work was taken to Porter by the head of the Property Council of Australia, Ken Morrison.

According to an article in the Australian Financial Review on May 22 2022, Morrison took up the issue with Safe Work Australia who rebuffed his approach and refused to change the original guidance. He then contacted the Attorney-General’s office who, according to Morrison:

“…. engaged with the Deputy Chief Medical Officer to ensure the health issues were properly understood and then in conjunction with Safe Work Australia ensured that revised guidelines were released which were absolutely safe, but practical, and allowed the return to work that the national cabinet has been encouraging.”

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