On 21 September 2010, Radio Australia’s regular program Australia Talks conducted a live interview concerning occupational safety and health.
For those who have been listening to the show for some time would have been surprised that the program covered much of the same old OHS ground. Similar statistics, similar questions of what are the most dangerous occupations, similar assumptions and the same misunderstanding that discussions about OHS law are the same as discussions on safety management.
However, for those new to OHS, the program may have provided an impression that the issue is serious but that, even with harmonisation, the issue is too complex to be applied in their own circumstances.
What was very surprising was that the program spent some time discussing Industrial Manslaughter legislation that, to my knowledge, is not being seriously considered by any States through the harmonisation process, a position mentioned in the program. Such laws exist in the Australian Capital Territory but have never been used.
The case for the deterrent value of such laws seemed weak, regardless of what Geoff Fary of the ACTU said on the program. In fact it was stated that the consideration of such laws would cause employer associations to walk away from any OHS discussions involving the concept. It has become a matter of division in negotiations.
Such a talkback program will always attract callers who outline personal or particular grievances and need to be cut short by the host. This is a shame but a necessity of the format. What Radio National and other broadcasters fail to realise is that occupational health and safety is a combination of a many concepts and disciplines that cannot be dealt with in an hour or a couple of hours.
OHS deserves its own weekly radio program in Australia so that issues, like those listed below, and specific industry needs can be discussed, explained and understood.
Below is a brief list of OHS-related issues that I believe could be the basis for a series of radio broadcasts, in no particular order:
- Infectious disease
- Mental Health
- Measuring OHS performance
- Safety Culture
- OHS Enforcement Policies and Limitations
- OHS Law
- Workplace suicide
- The Social Costs of Workplace Injury
- Can Capitalism allow OHS?
- Corporate Social Responsibility
- Determining Compliance
- Determining an Acceptable Level of Safety
- The Profession of Safety
- Where OHS is not relevant
- OHS and Politics
- Small Business Perceptions of OHS