OHS can be a force for social change, if anyone could be bothered

HesaMag should be obligatory reading for all OHS professionals, not just those in Europe. The editorial in the most recent edition (9 and not yet on line) is a great example of the value of this free magazine. It critically discusses the upcoming International Workers’ Memorial Day and its significance.

It asks for everyone to enact the commitment shown on each April 28 to every other day of the year. It says:

“Let’s not be taken in by the false sentiment on 28 April, but demand a clear and detailed accounting”

It asks why EU OHS legislation has been so slow to appear or be revised but equally, in Australia, questions should be asked about the status (failure in my opinion) of WHS harmonisaton, the lack of attention to the causes of workplace mental illness, the status of workplace bullying claims in the Fair Work Commission, the lack of attention to heavy vehicle OHS matters by the safety profession and the insidious encroachment of the perception of OHS as a failure of the individual rather than a failure in the system of work.

The Memorial Day is organised by the trade union movement and, as such, there are many who are disinclined to attend. But this should not be the reality. OHS professionals and regulators need to face the truth of their profession by meeting and hearing from the widows and families of those who have died at work.

The significance of OHS and its political and economic context needs to be embraced by the OHS profession and its associations. The editorial says that

“Those who have wealth live longer and in much better health than those who produce it [and that] deregulation policies are deepening those inequalities”.

The HesaMag editorial also says:

“Health and safety at work is a less visible but more fundamental bone of contention than pay because it challenges the employers’ power to determine work organisation, choose production processes and substances, use contingent and outsourced labour.”

OHS has more moral weight than wages and salaries but safety professionals seem to choose not to wield that weight. The current Royal Commission into Home Insulation is an example of how economics at the highest level of the Australian government sacrificed safety for a political and economic imperative determined by Prime Minister and his executive.

Many profess that OHS needs leadership to change and improve but more can be learnt through the failure of leadership. Failure may be a lag indicator but it is one that everyone has experienced and most have learnt from. Each death mourned on April 28 is a failure from which we all must learn.

Kevin Jones

Categories campaign, death, ethics, law, Leadership, OHS, politics, safety, Uncategorized, unionTags ,

3 thoughts on “OHS can be a force for social change, if anyone could be bothered”

  1. If the families who commemorate April 28 were asked…..

    Have things changed, what has been done to prevent a similar incident?
    Will things change, what has been planned to prevent a similar incident?
    Will other families be spared the result of the systemic failures within OHS?

    I would say that for many families the answers to these questions are important, and they represent the only positive meaning that may result from the pain and sorrow left from losing their loved one.

    Who would make the answers to these questions a priority?

    Industry? Too much regulation, too much cost, too much time.
    Worksafe? Their job is done with the prosecution.
    Regulators? They hide behind the policy and procedure rhetoric.
    Governments? It\’s funded in the budget, it\’s the departments responsibility.

    As a member of one of these families I would say to the people who have the power to influence change and solutions…..

    Don\’t hold my hand for support
    Don\’t hug me to console me for my loss
    Don\’t tell me how sorry you are
    Don\’t share your frustration at the complexity of the problems

    Tell me what you can do, how you can change things, what difference you can make.

    But I implore you please, please don\’t wait until April 28th, do it today, now.

  2. If for 12 months all people who have an influence on workplace H&S standards stopped talking about OHS theory or fashionable blowing-in-the-wind aspirations (safety culture, safety climate, risk assessment/management, leadership, OHS systems, mindfulness, OHS \’numb fullness\’…), and instead genuinely attended to practical and obviously present daily H&S failures ….

    If politicians had the trepidation of a parent who knows just how many workers are hurt at work….

    If regulators developed a personal rage in their inspectors (and I have seen some such, it was a joy to see!)…

    If all our religious leaders said openly and loudly that to trade H&S standards for productivity is absolutely disgusting….

    Mate, these are simple concepts and the requisite actions easily understood.

    In short:more simple daily practical fixes, less talk about talk. And don\’t for one minute think that the psychosocial hazards at work are much more complex. They are only too obvious and very well-known.

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