Business Bullshit – and how this relates to workplace health and safety

This is an edited version of my presentation to delegates at the inaugural NSW Regional Safety Conference & Expo in Newcastle, Australia on March 17, 2018.

The current approach to occupational health and safety (OHS) is that we shouldn’t separate it from business operations. One of the motivations for achieving success in business is to build a strong organisational culture that integrates safety.

Companies often start this task by developing Mission Statements or Pledges.  Quite often these are done by talking to a lot of different people in the organisation.  And I don’t know of any mission statement that hasn’t been already run through Legal and Marketing – they don’t always get run through Safety.  What happens is that these statements can become more florid and more inexact, and more unclear.  Some of them descend into Business Bullshit.

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Safety in Work-For-The-Dole gets a hammering

Journalist Alice Workman drew social media’s attention to a dismissive answer by Australia’s Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation, Craig Laundy in Parliament last week.  Laundy was asked by the Opposition Labor Party’s Ed Husic about a workplace fatality report and the safety performance of the Work-For-The-Dole scheme.  The discussion provides a glimpse into the politics of occupational health and safety (OHS).

According to

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Is a new OHS consultative model required?

A crucial element in achieving the aims of the independent review into WorkSafe Victoria, as discussed in an earlier SafetyAtWorkBlog article, seems to be the operation of the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee (OHSAC).  It was difficult to obtain a list of the current members of OHSAC. Due to the appointments being considered “ministerial”, WorkSafe would not reveal memberships.

But it is worth considering whether this type of tripartite-dominated committee is the most suitable or effective way of consulting on occupational health and safety issues.  Can it represent the gig economy and new work arrangements?  Given the broadening of OHS into mental health and wellness, does the current membership still represent OHS? Where’s the Human Resources representative? Does OHSAC membership fit with the diversity we now expect from our company Boards? But, above all else, does the growth in social media make these often plodding, and sometimes secretive, processes ineffective or redundant?

A spokesperson for the Victorian Government has provided the following names of current OHSAC members as at December 2017.  SafetyAtWorkBlog has added titles and links to online member profiles:

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Victoria joins the push for licencing labour hire

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Victoria is the latest Australian State to introduce laws into Parliament that establish a licencing scheme for labour hire operators. The Labour Hire Licensing Bill 2017 was read into Parliament on 14 December 2017 (Hansard, pages 55-61)

The Bill is compatible with the laws passed recently in Queensland and South Australia which apply a universal licencing scheme rather than a sectoral one as preferred by some organisations.  This should make the scheme easier to administer as it removes demarcation disputes and, as pointed out by the Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Luke Donnellan, removes loopholes of opportunity for avoiding obligations – a critical consideration in a sector that has shown such disregard for legal obligations. Continue reading “Victoria joins the push for licencing labour hire”

Will we ever get to see Victoria’s latest OHS review?

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The Victorian (Labor) Government promised a review of WorkSafe Victoria’s enforcement policies in its 2014 campaign pledges as per the quote below.  The independent occupational health and safety (OHS) review was conducted in 2016 with a lot of public submissions.  The review’s final report was presented to the Victorian Minister for Finance, Robin Scott in December 2016.  Everything has been quiet since. Continue reading “Will we ever get to see Victoria’s latest OHS review?”