Almost every occupational health and safety (OHS) inquiry by the Australian Government has acknowledged the inadequacies of data on workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths. The 1995 Inquiry into Occupational Health and Safety (Volume 2) (pages 377-378) by the (then) Industry Commission acknowledged the lack of empirical evidence and made up its own. The situation has barely improved.
However a new project by West Australian academic,
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””
Cost is the last consideration in occupational health and safety (OHS) but is usually the first consideration in all other decisions. “Can we afford to improve something? No. So let’s do something else”. There is something fundamentally skewed in determining the cost-benefit analysis when it comes to workplace safety. For several years Safe Work Australia (SWA)…
Tripartite consultation of occupational health and safety (OHS) is largely a relic of the past. It remains in the structure of government policy formulation and in workplace safety legislation but, largely due to the decline in trade union presence in Australian workplaces; OHS consultation occurs more linearly than through formalised tripartism.
A recent example of contemporary consultation, that is likely to include OHS, was reported on in The Guardian newspaper on 17 July 2016. The incoming UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, wants to encourage the inclusion of a worker on company boards. It is a curious suggestion from a Conservative Prime Minister which has been leapt on as “workplace democracy” by some commentators. The workplace democracy or “industrial democracy” push is not a new idea and was once seriously proposed in 1977 but, according to an article in The Conversation, the political time was not right. Whether that time is now is debatable. Continue reading “Worker democracy reappears and OHS needs to be ready”
Governments around the world love to be able to claim their State or Country as the safest in the world, when they can. Australia has been plagued by such claims between various States but a report released on July 6 2016 shows that such claims are only half the story.
The Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) released its report about “Work-related injury and illness in Australia, 2004 to 2014“. The report makes this extraordinary finding:
“Across Australia, there are twice as many estimated work-related injuries as there are accepted workers compensation claims. This indicates that many injuries do not progress into the nations workers compensation systems” (page 2)
This statement seems to indicate that political statements made on the basis of workers’ compensation data, the major rationale for most of the “we are the safest” statements, are only half right!
Australia’s work health and safety (WHS) laws confirmed the modern approach to workplace safety legislation and compliance where workers and businesses are responsible for their own safety and the safety of others who may be affected by the work. The obligations to others existed before the latest WHS law reforms but it was not widely enforced. The
Andrew Hopkins has described organisational culture as “the way we as an organisation do things around here”. The sociology of this statement is sound and the occupational health and safety (OHS) context seems to be an accepted element of safety management. But for OHS professionals to continue to advocate the importance of a safety culture it is necessary for them to be aware of how culture is being interpreted and applied elsewhere. The Australian Labor Party recently stated that the Australian banking system needs a Royal Commission because, as Senator Sam Dastyari stated:
“We’ve seen scandal after scandal. We’ve seen failure after failure and we’ve seen a banking sector and a culture develop where effectively these matters are constantly being ignored”.
At a recent seminar on managing serious workplace incidents, there was a brief discussion about how evidence is collected and controlled. The response from the panel was that one should always assume that conversations are always being recorded or have the capacity to be. A non-safety example of this appeared in The Age newspaper recently. It appears that someone recorded the Royal Australasian College of Surgeon’s examination process and the recording included discriminatory comments. Two examiners have been stood down and the College is investigating the examination processes. Continue reading “There is no such thing as a Cone of Silence, accept the reality”
New Zealand’s Safeguard magazine is a long-standing institution. Recently it undertook its first ever Safety State of the Nation survey. The results are interesting and should provide a format for Australia and other countries or publishers to follow. Cross border comparisons could be fascinating.
Safeguard’s editor Peter Bateman says in a media statement:
“Given all the scaremongering stories which have accompanied the new Health and Safety at Work Act, it is pleasing to see 40% of respondents feel health and safety is an opportunity to improve their business rather than just to comply with the law.”
The fact that the results are made publicly available is also significant. Not only does this allow me to write an article on the results, it shows a level of transparency that other safety-related surveyors, particularly those who charge hundreds of dollars for a survey report, could easily follow.
Some of Australia’s mainstream media reported on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull‘s admonishment of the banking sector on April 6 2016. He accused them of having an unhealthy culture, reflecting a general and growing public dissatisfaction with large financial institutions, insurance companies and other corporations.
Given that the dominant perspective on occupational health and safety (OHS), at the moment, is the importance of an organisational culture that values workplace safety, it is worth looking at Prime Minister Turnbull’s words and those of prominent executives and financial regulators recently reported in the mainstream press.
Continue reading “What does the Prime Minister’s criticism of banking culture mean for OHS?”