The Triumph of Doubt is essential reading

When a former head of a national occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator writes a book, it may be a curiosity (and it is rare). But when the writer is the former Assistant Secretary of Labor for the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the book becomes interesting. When the book is called “The Triumph of Doubt – Dark Money and the Science of Deception“, it becomes a must-read. SafetyAtWorkBlog dips into David Michaels‘ new book (as I only received it yesterday) and finds treasure.

This is not the first time that Michaels has written about Doubt and how whole industries have developed to create, market and exploit Doubt for the benefit of the Establishment. However, the new book is super-topical in this time of “Fake News” and blatant disregard of science and scientists.

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Ethics, safety and fingertips

Last week the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) launched its Body of Knowledge Chapter on Ethics in Melbourne to a small group of occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals. Participants were asked to outline an ethical challenge they had faced as OHS professionals.

In that same week, WorkSafe Victoria issued a media release that showed a poor follow-through by a business on advice from an OHS professional.

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Avoid government interference, get in first

In occupational health and safety (OHS), there is evidence and then there is evidence. Regardless of the type of evidence, there is not as much as there should be. Many companies and organisations in Australia are required to publicly release annual reports that identify their financial status. Increasingly non-financial criteria, like OHS performance, is being included in these reports but why isn’t this mandatory and why isn’t it of a consistent type? Late on 2019, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) looked at the issue of OHS reporting, with some assistance from EY.

ACSI’s CEO, Louise Davidson illustrates the problem in her Foreword to the report:

“Almost one third of ASX200 companies provide their investors and other stakeholders no information on health and safety performance. For the companies that do provide some information, the disclosure often provides no insight into how many severe incidents occurred…….”

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OHS needs to ride the ESG wave

The current Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) movement can be seen as the latest iteration of companies and business owners reflecting on the broader purposes of running a business.  An earlier manifestation of this reflection was Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  ESG and CSR are similar perspectives from different times but with a fundamental continuity.

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is integral to CSR/ESG/Sustainability considerations but is often overlooked or considered as a business add-on, a situation that has been allowed to persist by the OHS profession, Regulators and others over many decades.

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Annual Reports are not as transparent on OHS performance as they could be

Around four or five years ago, occupational health and safety (OHS) reporting in Corporate Annual Reports was a hot topic as Australian research had indicated that Annual Reports were not revealing sufficient, or useful, OHS data. Also awards were being presented for the best OHS reporting in Annual Reports. SafetyAtWorkBlog has looked at a sample of the reports released by the Victorian Government over the last fortnight to see what OHS information is available.

Two major keywords were used to search the Annual Reports – “Safe” and “Well”. These words form the stemS of other search terms such as “safety” and “wellbeing” or “wellness”. Each of the word responses were looked at for a focus on workplace or work-related activity. Although public safety may have an increasing OHS context, public safety, and a range of other “safeties”, were not included.

Some Annual Reports were okay, others? Egh! But what is clear is that there is no excuse.

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