Industrial Manslaughter Laws are treading water

On November 13 2019 the Victorian Parliament heard detailed debate (page 93) about Industrial Manslaughter laws but without resolution. Many of the points raised were familiar and along political party lines but of particular interest was the insights provided into how that State’s political leaders perceive occupational health and safety (OHS).

Each of the speakers reiterated the importance of OHS and how all workers deserve to go home at the end of the shift – you know the cliches and the debate held plenty of them. There was also a fundamental misunderstanding by many speakers though.

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How much is safety a choice?

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Some time ago I had a run-in with a worker who repeatedly chose not to wear his hard hat.  He reasoned that as there were no overhead or head-high hazards in the work area the personal protective equipment (PPE) was not necessary.  He applied what some would call a risk-based decision and he was right.  But the worker was dismissed from the project (not by me) over his decision and because of his belligerence and verbal abuse over the matter.  The reality was that he showed disrespect to his employer (a subcontractor) and disregard to the safety rules of the contractor thereby eroding the safety culture that the contractor was trying to establish and maintain in order to, ultimately, satisfy the client.

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, September 8, 2018: Many road workers in orange vests are working on a busy inner city street. Source: istockphoto

There has been an increasing amount of discussion in the occupational health and safety (OHS) sector about trust.  There is little chance of achieving any change in a workplace without first of all establishing trust between the stakeholders, or at least a little bit of trust. But part of this trust is also respect. And part of this trust is that it should be earned… by everyone. Continue reading “How much is safety a choice?”

Farm suicides and prevention

In a submission to the Australian Government’s inquiry into the future of work, the McKell Institute dips into Safe Work Australia’s latest statistical data and reveals a few occupational health and safety (OHS) and workers compensation surprises in the area of agriculture. These surprises are substantiated by other occupational health and safety (OHS) data sources.

Recently, SafetyAtWorkBlog chastised Australian government agencies, and politicians, from relying on workers compensation claims data as measurements of OHS rather than having established supplementary and robust sources of data on work-related injuries and illnesses. Such reliable sources would have helped anticipate some of the hazards from new employment structures and re-emerging occupational hazards. The McKell Institute wrote:

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Don’t be a fish; be a frog.

“Don’t be a fish; be a frog. Swim in the water and jump when you hit ground.”

Kim Young-ha

This aphorism seems apt for the safety culture journey that is occurring at Melbourne Water under the tutelage of Professor Patrick Hudson (pictured right). Melbourne Water is attempting to become a “generative organisation” in line with Hudson’s Safety Culture Maturity model and hosted a public event with Hudson in early November 2019. This provided an opportunity to hear how the model has evolved, particularly in its applications.

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Political Science (finally) comes to OHS

Improvement in occupational health and safety (OHS) standards has always been the intention of OHS laws. Parallel to this is the intention of the OHS, and allied, professions to continuously improve health and safety through the prevention of harm. However, political leadership on OHS has been scarce over the last few years, especially in the national governments of the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. So, it is necessary to look beyond the party politics to other sources of change.

Professor Maureen Dollard speaking at the 2019 ANZSOM Scientific Meeting in Adelaide

At the recent scientific meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine in Adelaide, prominent academic, Professor Maureen Dollard, introduced a much- needed element of political science into her presentation which was titled “Work Organisation and Psychosocial Factors”. SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to ask Dollard, and fellow presenter Professor Sally Ferguson, about this political context.

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