Two OHS regulators under investigation

Almost all the government agencies that regulate occupational health and safety (OHS) in Australia have been subjected to various independent inquiries. These inquiries have been a mix of political, financial and cultural. The review of SafeworkSA closes submissions at the end of this week. SafeWorkNSW is to have a six-month audit (paywalled) of its performance by the NSW Auditor-General, according to Adele Ferguson in the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Auditor-General is yet to release a media statement on the audit, but Ferguson identifies several serious concerns.

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SafetyAtWorkBlog “tip-off” line

SafetyAtWorkBlog occasionally receives confidential documents and phone calls about workplace health and safety incidents, investigations and reports. It is time that this process was given some formality in order to encourage transparency on issues while, if necessary, preserving anonymity. To achieve this aim, a “tip-off” line has been created by SafetyAtWorkBlog using the Whispli whistleblowing platform.

If you have some information related to workplace health and safety that you think would be of interest to SafetyAtWorkBlog readers, please let me know by clicking this gateway and establishing an anonymous account.

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SafeWorkSA’s approach to psychological harm is as much as it can do but doesn’t have to be

The harm presented by working in Australia’s mining sector has been a concern for a long time. Over the last decade or two, the psychosocial harm from the same work has come to the fore. The occupational health and safety (OHS) responsibility sits clearly with the employers who, in Australia, are often well-resourced national and international corporations. Recently SafeWorkSA issued a media release entitled “Sexual harassment in mining sparks campaign“. SafetyAtWorkBlog took the opportunity to put some questions to the South Australia OHS agency, to which it has responded.

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To achieve OHS progress, we need to understand Deterrence, and its failures

Deterrence has always been a major aim of enforcing occupational health and safety (OHS) laws and prosecuting wrongdoers. But the legal system and medical coverage have become so convoluted that the deterrent potential has declined.

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Good framework but insufficient analysis

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is rarely analysed as a stand-alone business element. As such opportunities are missed to clarify one’s understanding of work health and safety and companies’ experience of it beyond “commitments” and workers’ compensation costs.

There is great potential for change in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially Goal number 8. Sadly, even here “Decent Work” which includes the safety and health of workers (8.8) is shared with “Economic Growth”. As a result, it is often difficult to isolate the OHS components. A recent analysis of Australia’s ASX200 companies illustrates the problem.

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Hypocrisy is the biggest drag on OHS achievement

It is impossible to write about occupational health and safety (OHS) without mentioning hypocrisy – when one’s actions fail to meet the commitments we espouse. An important example was identified by a SafetyAtWorkBlog reader concerning the damning inquiry into Queensland’s public sector culture.

Several years ago, Queensland’s work health and safety authority issued a “Five year strategic plan for work health and safety in Queensland 2019 -2023” infographic that states this Goal:

“Queensland Government is a model client/employer and leader in work health and safety.”

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Sunlight on “an atmosphere of fear’

The Queensland Government and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk have been under heavy criticism for their workplace cultures and leadership since the release of the Coaldrake report last week – a “review of culture and accountability in the Queensland public sector”.

The report is very critical of the Queensland government’s management of the public service, identifying problems with the overuse of external consultants, issues of unfairness, the lack of transparency and openness, bullying and more. These findings could apply to most of the contemporary public sectors in Australia nationally and locally (as well as most medium- to large-sized companies).

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