‘Enough was Enough’ over a decade ago and the mining industry failed to act then

The recent report on sexual harassment at West Australian mine sites deserves national attention for several reasons.  The stories are horrific, partly because many of us thought such stories were in the distant past.  The fact that many are recent should shock everyone into action. 

The report “Enough is Enough”is highly important, but its newsworthiness seems disputable.  Some media have covered the report’s release but the newsworthiness, in my opinion, comes less from this one report but from the number of reports and research on sexual harassment, bullying, abuse, disrespect and more in the mining sector over the last twenty years that have done little to prevent the psychosocial hazards of working in the mining and resources sector and especially through the Fly-in, Fly-Out (FIFO) labour supply process.

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Hope clearly did not work. What’s next?

In the Weekend Australian newspaper, workplace relations journalist Ewin Hannan reported on a presentation (paywalled) made by the Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke to the Attorney-General’s Department staff. (Safe Work Australia, currently, exists in this department)  From Hannan’s report, the focus seems to have been on industrial relations but it’s useful to consider Minister Burke’s words from an occupational health and safety (OHS) perspective given that it is highly likely that Safe Work Australia personnel were one of the “hundreds” attending or listening in. Burke said:

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Look beyond employee perception surveys for clues about toxic workplaces

CNBC recently published an article called “These are the 5 biggest signs of a toxic workplace“. This American article by Jennifer Liu reflects a common approach in these types of articles of focussing on office-based work and not going beyond the Human Resources (HR) perspective, even when alternative data sources are available.

Those five signs are:

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Expand “Safety Differently” to “Work Differently”

Occupational health and safety is as much at risk of hypocrisy as any other business element. Perhaps moreso as it is full of trite cliches. Many people find it easier to identify hypocrisy when it is shown by others and Australian media company SBS provided an example recently.

According to an article in The Age newspaper on June 26, 2002 (not yet available online, image below), SBS had commissioned an independent production company, Fell Swoop Pictures, to produce a series about the exploitation of food delivery gig workers. This is a legitimate topic for depiction, especially after five food delivery workers were killed in Australia recently over a short period of time. The income levels of this type of worker have been a feature of many of the concerns raised by trade unions and others, and that has been highlighted in several formal inquiries into the industry sector.

Sadly Fell Swoop Pictures promoted the opportunity to be an Extra in a series about exploitation without the Extras being paid!!

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Federal Safety Commission embraces mental health

The Office of the Federal Safety Commission is a weird beast.  It originated from Royal Commission in the Building and Construction Industry which many at the time and since saw as a politically motivated exercise.  But whereas the Australian Building and Construction Commission which also originated in the Royal Commission, is mired in political and media back and forth, the OFSC has remained relatively clean.  This may illustrate the difficulty of arguing against workplace health and safety even when the Commission has a fair bit of safety clutter.

Recently the OFSC joined the workplace mental health movement, a legitimate occupational health and safety element.  It will offer little that is new, but the results of its November 2021 member survey do provide a useful insight into the major construction projects and contractors.

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New Hopkins book aimed at CEOs

Professor Andrew Hopkins‘ latest book “Sacrificing Safety – Lessons for Chief Executives” complements Queensland’s Board of Inquiry into the Grosvenor mine fire in which five workers were severely burnt, a significant workplace incident for which the company, Anglo American, will not be prosecuted. Hopkins explains that the Board of Inquiry chose not to investigate the organisational causes of the incident; a situation this book seeks to redress.

The book starts with a bang in the Introduction, with a paragraph that will stay with me for some time due to its blunt honesty:

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Congratulations

Congratulations to the eight subscribers who have won a copy each of David Provan’s wonderful book “A Field Guide to Safety Professional Practice”.

The books will be mailed out shortly to

  • Kirilee,
  • Trish
  • Russel
  • Nan
  • Grant
  • Sharon
  • Gillian, and
  • Jason

Kevin Jones