Economic analysis = A+. OHS analysis = C.

Research analyses of the economics of modern work methods are important evidence for government policymaking, but occupational health and safety (OHS) costs are often omitted or overlooked. The recent report by The Australian Institute and its Centre for Future Work called “Working From Home, or Living at Work?” appears to be another example.

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OHS must understand business perspectives and vice versa

This week Forbes magazine included a peculiar article about Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) headed “If You Think Managing Worker Health And Safety Is Expensive, Try An Accident“. The article written by Susan Galer includes several curious perspectives and mentions industrial manslaughter (IM).

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Safety is less of a joke but still struggles for credibility

In a SafetyAtWorkBlog post from early 2008, “Is OHS a Joke?“, I included an example of the misunderstanding of occupational health and safety (OHS) by a supermarket worker. This echoed some of the myths being busted by the United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive. OHS is less of a joke in 2010, but only just. HSE’s myth-busting campaign was suspended in 2018, but OHS may face a more significant challenge than ridicule, its credibility. The application of OHS laws is gradually eroding the “occupational” from the “health and safety”, and the social ripples of this change are only just being acknowledged.

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Suicides and historic data

Recently Safe Work Australia (SWA) released an excellent batch of occupational health and safety (OHSA) information in its annual “Key WHS Statistics – Australia 2021″. The decline in fatalities is significant, but there remains an odd omission that is worrying the longer it is not addressed – work-related suicides.

Limiting the statistical period also has implications for how OHS is understood and for the rate of change.

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OHS remains the bastard child of HR and IR

There continues to be a competitive tension in Australia between the professions (if they are professions) of Human Resources (HR) and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS). This has been most obviously on display in relation to sexual harassment and the psychological harm that results.

Recently Marie Boland, about to be the 2021 Residential Thinker at the University of South Australia, spoke about this tension and much more in an online lecture about “HR: A Human Resources or a Human Rights approach to work health and safety“. At that lecture, Boland said that she pins her hopes for improvement on the new Work Health and Safety Regulations because

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Diagnosis is the key

Part 2 of 2

Safe Work Australia (SWA) has reported on “mental health conditions” in its latest report on workers compensation claims and that these conditions represent 9% of claims for the 2018-2019 period (page 20). Claims have also increased in this category from 6,615 in 2000-2001 to over 10,000 in the latest data period. Mental health conditions are described elsewhere by SWA as affecting non-physical bodily locations (page 38).

As with many other reports, “mental health conditions” are not defined, but SWA states that this phrase is an alternative to “psychological injuries”. It also gives a numerical and dollar value to these conditions:

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