Young workers don’t know their OHS rights or their employer’s duty of care – Duh!

On March 10 2020, the Andrews Labor Government and the Minister for Workplace Safety, Jill Hennessy, released a media statement about a “social experiment” involving the safety of young workers, in response to the fact that “about 50 young workers are injured every week”.

The statement said that the campaign is

“… warning employers to protect young workers and making sure young Victorians are aware of their rights through a powerful new campaign …..
[and]
“…is part of a social experiment which saw young workers aged 18-25 asked to participate in a mock job information session for a research company.”

The significant finding was that

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Awards require a new purpose

WorkSafe Awards night 2019

WorkSafe Victoria has just contacted attendees at the 2019 WorkSafe Awards for an evaluation of the event. Although my response below relates to the recent event, it relates to many of the various (and expanding) awards for occupational health and safety (OHS). Here is some of my response to the WorkSafe survey and some suggestions on future Awards strategies:

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Another safety awards night

October each year contains several occupational health and safety (OHS) award ceremonies. Those operated by State OHS regulators used to feed into a national awards night in April hosted by Safe Work Australia, but that fell over. The rejuvenated Safety Institute of Australia, now renamed the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) has taken the plunge setting up a new national award process in competition to that operated for many years by the NSCA Foundation and, to a lesser extent, the awards by the various State-based OHS regulators..

According to a media release from the AIHS:

“The Australian Institute of Health & Safety (AIHS) is proud to announce the creation of the Australian Workplace Health & Safety Awards (AWHSA), to be held 27 May 2020 at the Melbourne Convention Centre, and annually thereafter”

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“We need to act together to help me get my act together”

On October 21 2019, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews posted on Facebook in support of his government’s move to introduce Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws. He chose the death of Jacob Kermeen and its effect on the family in support of the need for these laws.

It is surely a coincidence that a fatality from a trench collapse was chosen for this exercise. Some of the leading advocates for IM laws are the relatives of two workers who died from a trench collapse in Ballarat in March 2018, a case being prosecuted by WorkSafe Victoria.

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Talk business, talk safety

Successful management of occupational health and safety (OHS) requires reciprocal, active dialogues between workers and their managers. In OHS terms this is Consultation. To provide some structure to that consultation, it is becoming more common to designate some workers as “Safety Champions”.

This October, Safe Work Australia is promoting its National Safe Work Month urging everyone to be a “Safety Champion”. This is more about the act of championing safety than having a Safety Champion title. In the past, SWA has used alternate terms such as “Safety Ambassador” but it still struggles to enliven the conversations about OHS in workplaces, partly because of its passive messaging.

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