OHS and wage theft

Australia is several years into a scandal of underpayment of workers referred to, by some, as wage theft. Occupational health and safety (OHS) would not normally figure in a wages and industrial relations (IR) scandal but the scandal has a legitimate OHS context.

The previous, and ongoing, scandals are not going to be summarised in this article as there are plenty of articles elsewhere in lots of different media but there is a common thread in many of the scandals. Workers are not being paid for some of the time they spend at work, work that is commonly described as unpaid overtime. This unpaid overtime extends the working day, for a variety of reasons, and OHS may not accommodate these additional hours (as they are “not official”) or OHS may be “stretched”, or risks downplayed.

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Hand washing and safety

The appearance of a new coronavirus (Covid19) has again thrown a focus on hand hygiene. This is an occupational health and safety (OHS) issue as the risk could appear at work and, in Australia, suitable toilet amenities are required under OHS Acts and Regulations. But how do you wash your hands safely? Let’s look at one recommendation.

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Ethics, safety and fingertips

Last week the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) launched its Body of Knowledge Chapter on Ethics in Melbourne to a small group of occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals. Participants were asked to outline an ethical challenge they had faced as OHS professionals.

In that same week, WorkSafe Victoria issued a media release that showed a poor follow-through by a business on advice from an OHS professional.

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Cliché creates mixed message on OHS

In a welcome announcement about additional funding for WorkSafeACT, the Australian Capital Territory’s Minister for Employment and Workplace Safety, Suzanne Orr, stated that

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility and we must work together to create a strong safety culture so all workers can return home safe at the end of the day”

Orr needs to have her people think a little deeper before using the “everyone’s responsibility” cliché especially as WorkSafeACT gains independence for the first time ever.

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We’ve had enough awareness, now act

Mental health and burnout are workplace hazards with which many companies and workers are struggling. No matter what international or national organisations say about the hazard, it remains difficult to implement positive change at the workplace level. It is not helped by mainstream media articles that claim to prevent burnout and then provide very little information about how to prevent it.

A recent article in The Times, and reproduced today in The Australian, written by John Naish, is an example. The original article was headlined “How to prevent burnout at work”. This was retitled “Workplace burnout can lead to numerous serious health issues — and even premature death” in The Australian” (both are paywalled).

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