Bill Shorten reflects on the Esso Longford disaster

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Tonight, SafetyAtWorkBlog will be attending the launch of a new book that includes personal stories about the 1998 Esso Longford explosionWorkers’ Inferno.  The book is being released on the 2oth anniversary of the explosion that killed two workers, injured many others, disrupted gas supplies to the State of Victoria, resulted in a then-record fine for occupational health and safety (OHS) breaches and generated a Royal Commission.  It is also, perhaps, the best example of a company trying to blame the worker for a major incident.

The Federal Opposition leader, Bill Shorten, was an official of the Australian Workers Union at the time and today he published an opinion piece Continue reading “Bill Shorten reflects on the Esso Longford disaster”

Is OHS suffering from policy AND structural capture?

The Grattan Institute has released a report about the political influence of lobbyists.  Understandably the media is giving the report a lot of attention, particularly as it identifies lobby groups that have more access to politicians than other groups and how public interest policies have failed after intense lobbying. But the report also addresses the matter of “policy capture”.  Although the report analyses the activities of lobbyists, perhaps research could be undertaken into the high level of policy influence on workplace health and safety matters from a tripartite consultative structure that no longer reflects the Australian workforce.

In its Overview the Grattan Institute writes:

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New reporting standard reflects the social licence

Inaccurate or insufficient data about occupational health and safety (OHS) plagues the decision-making of governments and business, and OHS professionals.  Technology has provided some hope on better datasets but only for the analysis of data, not necessarily the quality of that data. Workplace incidents and issues continue to be under-reported, especially non-traumatic incidents. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) offers a framework for better reporting of OHS issues and incidents which also improves the credibility of companies, helping to regain the trust of the community.

Recently, GRI released its latest

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The risks of having an OHS policy

If you ask a lawyer for advice about any issue related to occupational health and safety (OHS) their first piece of advice is likely to be “write a policy”.  There are good legal reasons for advocating a policy, but policies can also create major problems.  Policies are both a reflection of a workplace and the base on which improvements can be created.

Search for OHS policy guidance from the Victorian Government  and it takes you to a page that describes an OHS policy as

“Laws, regulations and compliance codes which set out the responsibilities of employers and workers to ensure that safety is maintained at work.”

NO it’s not.  The page also directs you to a WorkSafe page about insurance!

WorkSafe Tasmania

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HR and OHS need to be playmates now more than ever

One of the fascinating elements of this year’s National Comcare conference is the conflict between the Human Resources (HR) approach to occupational health and safety (OHS) and workers compensation, and the OHS approach to psychosocial hazards.  This is not the fault of Comcare as the audience is a peculiar mix of both professions.

The difference was on display when some presenters focused on the post-incident care and, almost entirely, on interventions on the individual.  Other presenters focused on the prevention of physical and psychological injuries – the OHS approach.  The former seemed warmly embraced by the HR professionals.  There were other speakers, or parts of their presentations, where prevention was almost mentioned as an afterthought and even then omitting references to their organisation’s own OHS publications.

There has always been a structural and ideological separation of the professions

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