Consultation and issue resolution should be top OHS priorities

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Labour law firms in many cities conduct free seminars on the legal issues of the day.  These may involve union right-of-entry, OHS changes, privacy or right-to-know.  The seminars are intended to generate custom by showing how informed and professional the legal firm is.  Commercially for the firm, the seminars are a good idea.  For safety consultants and small business operators, such seminars can be invaluable.

Recently in Melbourne, a prominent law firm, Freehills, conducted a breakfast seminar on “Tips on managing legal risk following a workplace incident” at which a short time was spent at the end discussing OHS harmonisation changes and the expected impacts of the legal changes on business.  (Off-blog I received an email about this matter only last night as it relates to schools.)  Freehills’ Senior Associate, Steve Bell, presented the following graph. Continue reading “Consultation and issue resolution should be top OHS priorities”

Looking at the root causes of workplace violence

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Workplace incidents and injuries often occur as a result of inadequate resourcing in staff and time but few OHS consultants are comfortable recommending to clients that additional staff are required or that shifts should be reconfigured or, possibly, that a certain business activity (or the business itself) should be cancelled.  Yet identifying the “root cause” and eliminating the hazard is the aim of the safety profession and, sometimes, a legislative obligation.

A blog article from the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health in the United States illustrates many of these issues.  In a post entitled “Assaults on Nursing Assistants” unacceptable levels of assault and biting were experienced by aged-care nurses in one survey sample. But the blog not only reported the research results, it recommended some control measures:

“Improving staffing levels may reduce the risk of assault by reducing workload demands and allowing staff more time to spend with each resident and avoiding the need to rush care.” (emphasis added)

These seem sensible control measures in this work situation but will any business really take the recommended actions based solely on safety concerns? Continue reading “Looking at the root causes of workplace violence”

Queensland safety magazine released

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The Queensland Division of the Safety Institute of Australia regularly produces a newsletter/magazine of consistent quality and the November 2010 edition is available online.

This edition includes an article by Warwick Pearse on the Montara oil spill.  Pearse did not have the luxury of access to the final reports or government’s response but he makes sound recommendations.

Kevin Jones

Australia needs a sound and credible OHS organisation

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Any organisation that claims to be “considered by Industry and Governments to be the premier membership based organisation for the Safety Professional” establishes very high expectations in the community and its members.

At the end of November 2010 the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) concluded what could be described as its annus horribilis with its 2010 Annual General Meeting in Melbourne.

2010 has been busy for the SIA on the home front with its Western Australia Division morphing into a new OHS organisation (with a loss of 4,000 members according to the National President’s report in the Annual Report), a National Secretary being suspended, a Fellow being accused of contempt of the National Board, legal action continuing over SIA-related matters and special general meetings occurring, or being organised by longstanding and disgruntled members.

The various ructions in the last 12 months have been described in the SIA Annual Report [not available publicly online] by the outgoing National President, as “ill-informed” and reflective of “a suburban tennis club”.

The National President also briefly discusses breaches of ethics.  It is good to see, in one way, that “most [ethical breaches] were dismissed as frivolous or vexatious”, but the fact that the perceived breaches were even lodged should indicate that the SIA needs to devote a great deal more resources into educating its membership on due process in this area, or in reviewing the administration of the Code of Conduct.

Annual General Meetings are an important element of corporate and organisational accountability.  Indeed, a quick description of AGMs says that

“An AGM is held every year to elect the Board of Directors and inform their members of previous and future activities.  It is an opportunity for the shareholders and partners to receive copies of the company’s accounts as well as reviewing fiscal information for the past year and asking any questions regarding the directions the business will take in the future.” Continue reading “Australia needs a sound and credible OHS organisation”

WorkSafe’s Homecoming Advertisements

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‘Why is the most important reason for good workplace health and safety standards not at work at all?’ asks the Homecoming advertisement by implication.  Because the injured or killed worker will leave his/her family behind, or harm them if they are injured or killed.  S/he needs to think about them and the workplace H&S standard; about their pain and the OHS standard.  About them and his/her possibly unsafe behaviour at work so s/he can return home in one piece; return to them. And the imagery is of a patiently waiting young boy, waiting for his father at the front of the house holding a ball.  How desperate, lost and lonely that little boy would be if his father (in this case) was killed at work.  Your heart goes out to him and thereby an emotional driver has been activated.  And, in truth, tragically, such occasions do happen, too often.

Then the father appears and the boy smiles from ear to ear, we can feel the happiness permeating the ambrosia of human wellbeing.  Father has come home safe and sound, boy is happy, family is whole, healthy and safe.  I can’t remember, does mother peak smilingly from behind the corner as dinner simmers in the kitchen?  Your heart swells.  Good advert wouldn’t you say?

It’s very hard to change people’s behaviour.  It’s hard to get people to effectively achieve sustained improvements in anything.   Therefore, haven’t the marketers achieved a lot with this series of advertisements?

Let’s see:  first, are there likely to be any OHS improvements at work as a result of any of these ads?  I haven’t seen any, have you?  Think hard, what exactly has changed?

Secondly, have managers been touched by these ads so that they will now rush out and make dramatic OHS improvements?  Continue reading “WorkSafe’s Homecoming Advertisements”