Lancing the boil of sexual harassment

The Australian Institute of Safety and Health’s online national conference offered some big topics this year. One of the most anticipated was the discussion of sexual harassment in the workplace. Luckily the panel discussion included big hitters such as Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins whose week was about to get a lot busier with the revelations of sexual harassment by Australia’s High Court Justice Dyson Heydon.

The Dyson Heydon sexual harassment accusations, which he emphatically denies, were revealed in an independent investigation for the High Court of Australia. The Justice Heydon case has generated copious media attention for many reasons including his prominence in a politically-charged Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. His sexual harassment offences are awful, but the most startling revelations are not necessarily about one man’s inappropriate actions. Here was an organisational, maybe even a professional, culture that permitted this behaviour to continue unchallenged for many many years. It is this context that, I believe, offers the most significant lessons for the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession and where OHS skills can help others.

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Quad bike market changes for the safer

Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Polaris have previously announced that they will no longer be supplying quad bikes to the Australian market in response to the imposition of new safety standards. This has left a hole in the market for agricultural all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) that CFMOTO is happy to fill by including an Australian-made crush protection device (CPD) with the sale of some of its quad bikes.

Several Australian farmers continue to be unhappy about the removal of some models of quad bikes from the market. The Weekly Times reported on one disgruntled quad bike dealer, Craig Hartley. What the newspaper article failed to mention was that Hartley’s dealership is with Honda, Yamaha and KTM or that the dealership has been on the market since 2014 but it did include this quote from Hartley:

“Many rural motorcycle businesses, which support the ag industry throughout Australia, may have to close the doors as quad bikes are in many cases at least 40 per cent, if not more, of their turnover.”

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Will IR reform again ignore OHS?

Government policies that directly affect occupational health and safety (OHS) have been determined on a tripartite structure for many decades. This model comprises of representatives from business groups and trade unions in a consultation usually led by the government representatives. SafetyAtWorkBlog believes that this structure excludes important voices and is outdated, especially in a time when technology and the internet allows for a much broader consultation.

The limitations of the tripartite structure were on display recently when the Australian Government released the names of the organisations involved in the review of the industrial relations system. It is worth reading the list for you to understand who will be deciding your working future. It is also worth considering whether the negative OHS impacts of job and employment structures will be given the attention they deserve.

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Why isn’t workplace health and safety improving?

On Wednesday June 24 2020 at 1.30pm (AEST) I will be presenting my conference paper on the topic above. This is the first Australian Institute of Health and Safety conference to be conducted virtually and I am proud to be part of this year’s conference. As it is virtual, there is no limit on tickets so if you could not attend previous AIHS conferences, get to this one. Below is an extract from my paper:

The workplace fatality rates have been falling consistently for decades.  Occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals seem to be busier than ever.  So, the world must be safer than it has been in the past?  Maybe.  But this may not be the reality if we think a little deeper about the causes of harm and about the actions the OHS profession has applied.

Here is a typical graph showing the rate of workplace fatalities since 1985, when the modern OHS legislation was enacted in Victoria.

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