Steve Bell is a partner with Hebert Smith Freehills (HSF) in Melbourne, Australia. As many law firms do, HSF conducts several events each year to inform clients and others of occupational health and safety (OHS) and labour relations issues. In March 2017 Bell, who is the regular host at these events, spoke at a breakfast seminar held jointly with the Safety Institute of Australia, and identified several safety issues as becoming prominent in 2017:
- Increased penalties
- The risk of complacency
- Increased interplay between OHS and industrial relations
- Focus on public safety elements of OHS
- the review of regulations.
Below are some thoughts on the issues raised by Steve Bell.
There are many advocates of the importance of a mental health and wellbeing in workplaces. But few of them address the worst-case scenario for workplace mental health of work-related suicides. In some cases, the mental health advocates are overly cautious about even speaking the reality, which does not help reduce mental health stigma.
In 2016 Professor Stewart Clegg, of UTS Business School said that
“That work can kill the will to live is a fundamental ethical problem that we must attend to…”
New research from the UK provides a useful summary of the work-related and workplace suicides in Europe with important lessons of where precarious employment and the “gig economy” could lead.
The United States media continues to scrutinise the Department of Labor (DoL). On March 13 2017, The New York Times (NYT) expressed concerns about the lack of official media releases from the department, comparing the actions under a Trump administration against the Obama occupational health and safety (OHS) strategy. Some are claiming this to be a deliberate strategy but, until the Labor Secretary is confirmed, it may simply be caution. Such an apparently simple action can have broader effects on OHS management, as Australia learnt. Continue reading “US says “nothing to see here, move along””
Part of good corporate governance is transparency. A core element of occupational health and safety (OHS) is effective consultation. These two business practices seem compatible in that they address what is good for business and what is good for the workers. But there is a snake in this garden of safety – Legal Professional Privilege (LPP).
Melania Trump plagiarised a Michelle Obama speech. Following the signing of an Executive Order to reform regulations, perhaps President Trump could echo these words from a similarly-themed Executive Order of President Bill Clinton in 1993:
“The American people deserve a regulatory system that works for them, not against them: a regulatory system that protects and improves their health, safety, environment, and well-being and improves the performance of the economy without imposing unacceptable or unreasonable costs on society: – regulatory policies that recognize that the private sector and private markets are the best engine for economic growth: regulatory approaches that respect the role of State, local, and tribal governments; and regulations that are effective, consistent, sensible, and understandable. We do not have such a regulatory system today”
President Trump has set the United States bureaucracy a task that has already been undertaken by the
Last week Australia benefited from a safety roadshow based around screenings of the Deepwater Horizon movie and post-film discussions with Cheryl MacKenzie who was appointed as the lead investigator by the US Chemical Safety Board, and by Peter Wilkinson, an adviser to CSB’s investigation of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The seminars were popular with full sessions in some capital cities.
The format of such seminars is attractive as the film can be used as an icebreaker and/or the pivot point for discussions. MacKenzie and Wilkinson’s discussion focused on oil and gas safety scenarios but there was enough non-specific information for take-aways.
More such events would be a good idea perhaps using a range of the available safety-related documentaries that are released, almost, ever year such as
The South Australian Branch of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) held a protest rally in Adelaide on 15 February 2017 in response to the political negotiations in Australia’s Parliament about the reintroduction of, what the union sees as, anti-union legislation. Throughout the rally’s presentations (available online through the CFMEU Facebook page), the issue of occupational health and safety (OHS) was raised and it is worth looking closely at what was said and the broader political and safety context.
The issues to be addressed in the protest rally included Senator Nick Xenophon’s “deal” with Prime Minister Turnbull that the CFMEU claims will:
- ” Make our workplaces less safe
- Put more overseas visa workers on our building sites
- Cut the number of apprentices in South Australia
- Threaten job security and increase casual jobs
- Fail to mandate Australian made products on construction sites”
After Joe McDonald opened the rally, the Secretary of the CFMEU SA, Aaron Cartledge (pictured above), spoke about how workers in South Australia had been dudded on safety because the health and safety representatives (HSRs) cannot call on external safety advisers to help them with an OHS matter. This may be the case but Cartledge’s comments illustrate a common perspective of trade unionists – a reluctance to consider safety management strategies other than those dependent on HSRs.
Australia Post features regularly in the mainstream press. Recently, the media and Government discussed the pay packet of its Chief Executive Officer, Ahmed Fahour, but a safety management issue has been bubbling along for some time and reappeared this morning in the Australian Financial Review (AFR) “Australia post investigated over alleged manipulation of injury rate for bonuses” ($paywall).
The AFR writes that
“Comcare is investigating Australia Post over allegations that some senior managers manipulated data on injured employees’ absences from work to meet key performance indicators and secure hefty bonuses.”
This is allegedly done by
- “delaying injury claims,
- recording workers on sick leave when they are really absent on injury, and
- paying for medical expenses in lieu of workers lodging compensation claims.”
Continue reading “Can Australia Post’s executives survive the most recent allegations?”
In 2016, Professor Andrew Hopkins urged occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals to abandon safety culture. In the December 2016 edition of OHS Professional magazine ($), he writes further about this position.
Several of Hopkins’ statements make the reader stop, sit up and reflect. He writes
“What people do is something company leadership can indeed control, while what people think is neither here nor there“(page 28 – emphasis added).
POW!, there goes a lot of the safety training that is provided.
Over the Christmas break I was cleaning out some files and found some old SafetyAtWork podcast files that used to be on iTunes around a decade ago. The information and perspectives remain important and to preserve the files I have uploaded them to SoundCloud.
One is an interview with Professor Michael Quinlan shortly after the Beaconsfield mine inquiry. The other is a presentation to the Central Safety Group by freelance journalist Gideon Haigh about the corporate approach to asbestos and compensation off the back of the publication of his Asbestos House book.
More will be posted over the next few weeks.