Workplace Safety Ads

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Twenty years ago WorkCover Victoria won awards for graphic ads depicting workplace incidents.  Canada is now debating the value and worth of such an approach to safety awareness.  (The WSIB ads are widely available on YouTube)  But in the 21st century, Australia is using a gentle approach that is having considerable success.

The latest ad will go to air early in May 2008 and a sneek preview can be viewed HERE

The ad that started WorkSafe’s campaign can be viewed HERE


The WorkSafe ads have had a huge impact by focussing on non-workplace motivations for workplace change.  However, the community message needs to be supported by community action from the regulators.  There is extensive branding and sponsorhip happening but WorkSafe, or rather the Victorian Government in coordination, needs to step up the role of advocating safety values at all stages of work and life for long term change to be affected.

Safety Behaviours and Enforcement

One of the main reasons that the Safety Institute of Australia included a single conference stream on CEOs recently was so that OHS professionals could gain an insight into CEO perspective – to hear from the horses’ mouths. In a question and answer session after his presentation, Jerry Ellis said “Regulatory requirements are not the…

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The Challenge for Australia’s OHS Law Review

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Everyone is eagerly anticipating the issues paper of Australia’s review into model OHS law but talking with many people at the SIA08 conference this week, it seems that people are anticipating more from the review than the review was established. The review will be looking at OHS law and law establishes the parameters for managing workplace safety. However, OHS law is what underpins safety management and it is easy to focus on the law to the detriment of managing safety in workplaces.

Employers don’t need to be familiar with the intricacies of OHS law. They need to understand their legal obligations. Legal advice is usually sought if something goes wrong. So how will the current OHS law review change how we manage safety? I asked Tracey Browne of the Australian Industry Group for her opinion. Tracey said the review “has the potential to be revolutionary but everyone needs to realise that changing the law is not going to change anything on its own.”

To progress OHS law many of the issues that have come to dominate discussion over the last 30 years will need to be put aside. Of all the participants in the review process, Tracy believes that the OHS regulators may have the hardest time in achieving this position.
Cathy Butcher of the Victorian Trades Hall agrees that there are considerable agreements on OHS law but she identified some substantial sticking points. In a panel discussion at the Safety In Action Conference she listed the following big differences:

  • The removal of “reasonably practicable”
  • The union right to prosecute
  • The reintroduction of “risk assessment” into the Victorian regulations and OHS Act
  • Compliance Codes to “go the way of the dodo”

Whether this is an ambit claim will be seen soon through the OHS Law Review process.

Taxi Driver Safety Causes Blockade

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One of Melbourne’s busiest intersections was blockaded again by angry taxi drivers. This follows the stabbing of a young cab driver on April 29,2008.
The calls were again for shields in cabs to isolate the drivers from, often, irate drunk and violent passengers.
In response to previous protests, cameras were installed in taxis as a deterrence and evidence-gathering device. This control measure is clearly not working as well as cheaper and simpler alternatives.
Cameras record the attacks, the maiming and the deaths. They help identify the attacker but they do not prevent the attacks. Drivers continue to work in an industry that is more hazardous than it needs to be.
In OHS terms, any worker can refuse to place themselves at risk and many drivers have retired over the years siting safety as an important consideration. However, this has lead to a driver shortage that is being filled by migrant workers and overseas students. (The most recent victim was reported to be a 23-year-old Indian student) The influx of migrant workers to perform jobs, that Australian residents choose not to undertake, has complicated occupational health and safety considerably, and unnecessarily.
Engineering solutions of shields and other driver separations could have been introduced years ago after similar security and personal safety protests. Many other Australian and overseas jurisdictions have driver-passenger separation as standard.
After 30 hours in the autumn cold the blockade has been lifted after the government agreed to install driver shields in taxis within 12 months. But this is cold comfort to the stabbed 23-year-old tax driver and those drivers who have been choked and attacked. This engineering control has been in existence for over a century and it is a stain on the decisions of previous governments who allowed taxis to be commissioned in, what has been proven to be, an unsafe state. Violence against taxi drivers and other transport drivers has been a known workplace hazard for a long time (bus drivers have had separation for years. How was driving a taxi different?) and again, it has taken a violent attack on a worker to achieve an acceptable level of safety – a level that a “reasonable man” would have agreed to or one that was always “reasonably practicable”.

LTIFRs – still the corporate benchmark

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What I and my OHS colleagues found peculiar at Day One of the Safety In Action Conference was that most of the CEO presenters continued to use LTIFRs (Lost Time Injury Frequency Rates) as the primary safety performance indicator.

In Australian OHS fields, LTIFR has been established as an inaccurate indicator of safety performance but, apparently, it is the indicator that Board members like.

At lunch Michael Thompson of the ASSE said that the continuing prevalence of LTIFR is our fault, the fault of OHS advisers.  We have allowed LTIFR to persist far beyond their relevance and use.  I think he is probably right as OHS organisations have not pushed alternatives or educated the MBAs and future directors.

The use of Positive Performance indicators has been the way forward for some time.  It was sad that PPIs weren’t emphasised more in the CEO stream of Day One.