Australian OHS Awards need a review to stay relevant

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Australia’s OHS awards season has concluded with many of the same challenges it had in 2009.

Most States have harmonised their awards categories so that the national OHS awards in March 2011 are fairer but the worth of some categories, listed below,  remains in question.

“Category 1: Best Workplace Health and Safety Management System

a. Private Sector

b. Public Sector

Category 2: Best Solution to an Identified Workplace Health and Safety Issue

Category 3: Best Workplace Health and Safety practice/s in Small Business

Category 4: Best Individual Contribution to Workplace Health and Safety

An employee, such as a health and safety representative

An outstanding contribution by an OHS manager or a person with responsibility for work health and safety as part of their duties”

The category of most concern is “Best OHS Management System”.  For several years many OHS and media people have asked “why should a company receive an award for what they should already be doing?” Continue reading “Australian OHS Awards need a review to stay relevant”

Half price psychosocial hazard books

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Rarely does SafetyAtWorkBlog recommend the purchase of books but Federation Press is offering 50% off any Willan Publishing titles through to 17 December 2010.  For those unfamiliar with this publisher, below are some of the titles that are relevant to occupational health and safety:

Safety Crimes by Steve Tombs and David Whyte

Workplace Violence by Vaughan Bowie, Bonnie Fisher and Cary L Cooper

Violence at Work by Martin Gill, Bonnie Fisher and Vaughan Bowie

There are many other titles concerning social issues which may be of relevance to some industrial sectors.

Kevin Jones

Note: SafetyAtWorkBlog occasionally receives review copies from Federation Press but with this special offer, a selection of books have been purchased.

CSR and public health

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The recent conference of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) gave considerable attention to corporate social responsibility (CSR).  It could be argued that this shows the ASSE is years behind many others but it could also be argued that CSR has a practical longevity in workplace safety that may have faded in other CSR areas.

A recent article in Health Education, “Workplace health promotion within small and medium-sized enterprises” may provide some clues for forward planning on mental health, wellbeing and OHS.  The authors* write:

“There needs to be a clear distinction between activities focused purely on internal business management and those with a wider public health impact.  Consideration needs to be given to human resource policies and procedures, as these are beyond employees’ personal control, yet have a direct and indirect effect on their working life and the smooth running of the business they work for.”

This should give greater confidence to HR practitioners that the “soft sciences” of human resources are an important element of corporate wellbeing and profitability but there is also a clear indication from the article that various organisational elements need to “play well” with each other in order to achieve the potential benefits; Continue reading “CSR and public health”

Do budget cuts equal cuts in safety enforcement?

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There are several issues in the United Kingdom at the moment that could affect workplace safety, not including Lord Young’s OHS review.

Great Britain is to undergo enormous funding cuts to most of the civil service.  The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is to have its budget cut by 35% according to the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

Another issue is that a TUC survey has found:

“Almost half (49%) of safety representatives said that as far as they know, a health and safety inspector has never inspected their workplace…”

The TUC says that the same survey indicates that the threat of inspection is a major motivator to OHS improvements.  In a media release on 1 November 2010 TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:
“Knowing that an inspector is likely to visit is one of the key drivers to changing employers’ behaviour and making the workplace safer and healthier.  It is a scandal that nearly half of workplaces in the UK have never been visited by a health and safety inspector.”
And those inspectors are most likely to come from the HSE .  Data from the HSE shows that the number of enforcement notices has hovered around 10,000 each year for the last decade.  The number of prosecutions over that time have steadily declined.
What is really required is the number of the inspections undertaken by the HSE but this information is not included in the latest annual statistics.
If safety improvements are made in businesses due to the threat of an OHS inspection by a regulators, how does the HSE plan to keep the pressure on when it will lose over a third of its budget? Continue reading “Do budget cuts equal cuts in safety enforcement?”

The asbestos Triffid goes national

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The union campaign on the eradication of asbestos from the island of Tasmania has entered the national political arena in Australia.  On 29 October 2010, the Australian Minister for Workplace Relations, Chris Evans, announced that Geoff Fary, Assistant Secretary of the Australian Council for Trade Unions, will chair the newly established “Asbestos Management Review” (AMR).

The appointment and chairmanship are an acknowledgement that the trade union movement is the major advocate for occupational, public and environmental safety concerning asbestos in Australia.

Fary will be leaving his ACTU role in November 2010 to take up the new position.

One concern with the AMR, even in its early development is the task of raising awareness.  Chris Evans stated that:

“It is critical that we develop a comprehensive understanding of the scope of the problem and set clear targets as to how we address issues relating to awareness, management and removal of asbestos.”

There is the risk of inactivity on any issue that seeks to raise awareness.  As I wrote twelve months ago:

“The asbestos safety advocates should drop “awareness” from the week’s title because awareness equates to “aspirational targets”, former Prime Minister John Howard’s way of promising much and delivering nothing.  Just as everyone accepts that smoking causes lung cancer and climate change exists, people know that asbestos can kill.  Move away from awareness-raising to action.” Continue reading “The asbestos Triffid goes national”