Industrial Manslaughter and Australian Standards

Earlier this month, SAI Global issued a media release headlined

“1 in 2 organisations don’t meet State industrial manslaughter laws, new executive survey finds – Plus, seven tips for executives to prepare their organisation to meet the laws”

This was based on internal research compiled in their “2021 Australian Business
Assurance Report” (not publicly available). SAI Global’s headline findings from the report are

  • “45% of executives not confident their organisations meet industrial manslaughter laws
  • Senior leaders do not have OHS responsibilities in 33% of organisations
  • Businesses will put 62% more budget, resources and people toward OHS”

There were several odd statements in the report about which SafetyAtWorkBlog sought clarification, particularly about Industrial Manslaughter. SAI Global’s workplace safety expert Saeid Nikdel responded.

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We complicate what we know works

There is one simple way of improving occupational health and safety (OHS) in any workplace – have the senior managers and executives be more in touch with the manufacturing process or provision of services. This will improve their understanding of the risks in their businesses and, hopefully, cause them to see the importance of improving health and safety, either for increased profitability or for the quality of life of their workers. Often the executives are too busy to take the time to visit, learn and listen and Industrial Manslaughter laws are intended to cut through this business attitude.

Recently SAI Global issued a media release about Industrial Manslaughter laws which has more to do with its certification services than the improvement of worker safety or prevention of harm. Stripping away the marketing, the media release quotes Kiran Bhagat saying:

“Industrial manslaughter laws legislated in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, the Northern Territory, and the ACT place legal liability squarely at the feet of the C-suite and company directors for industrial manslaughter. Organisations must ensure their compliance to OHS laws is over and above current standards and, besides, aim to meet and exceed international standards as a safeguard. The highest-ranking leaders in an organisation must be proactively involved in these processes.”

There are few OHS professionals who would disagree with this.

The content that lets this media release down and puts it into the marketing folder rather than the OHS folder is the prominent promotion of its certification services, that should be able to stand on their own content such as this in the final paragraph:

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Auditing the auditors

In the wake of several corporate collapses, the UK Government commissioned a review of the business auditing sector. In 2019, the final report of the Brydon Inquiry was released recommending substantial changes to auditing. Occupational health and safety (OHS) is increasingly considered as part of corporate governance so these recommendations have a direct effect on OHS management and reporting.

This report is relevant to Australia for many reasons, principally, because the audit firms that were scrutinised by Donald Brydon operate here.

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Small packages, big info

Face-to-Face communication trumps electronic communication every time. This is true for telling stories to trauma counselling to telling someone you love them.

Prof. Michael Quinlan and Alena Titterton Akins at the 2019 Tasmania Health & Safety Symposium

Sixty delegates attended the one-day occupational health and safety (OHS) symposium in Tasmania yesterday. These symposia seem to be the modern equivalent of the traditional conference, especially in Australia, and offer the opportunity for better conversations about OHS. This format still has some need for refinement but it seems more informative than a lecture and less confusing than a multi-streamed big conference of thousands of people.

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Addressing the invisible causes of visible harm

The trade union movement was instrumental in showing that workplace bullying was a pervasive problem in Australian workplaces.  Many Codes of Practice and guidances for workplace bullying and occupational violence were written shortly after the action by the Australian Council of Trade Unions almost two decades ago.  But, for some reason, although sexual harassment was mentioned in those early documents, it never received the attention in occupational health and safety (OHS) circles that, in hindsight, it should have.

Perhaps a more sustainable and effective strategy would be to focus on the “harassment” rather than the “sexual”, or in

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Pressure, Disorganisation and Regulatory Failure

A reader recently asked why I haven’t written about the recent retirement of Professor Michael Quinlan.  Michael has featured in many SafetyAtWorkBlog articles over many years and has been a major supporter for industrial, labour relations and occupational health and safety research in Australia and elsewhere for a long time.

He has many legacies but this article will focus on one tool he developed with his associate Phillip Bohle – the Pressure, Disorganisation and Regulatory Failure (PDR) model.  PDR is explained at length in this excellent 2011 research paper written with Elsa Underhill and is summarised in the table below:

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The banks are having their culture changed for them and OHS needs to watch and learn

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is easy.  Change is hard.  OHS can identify  workplace hazards and risks but it is the employer or business owner or Person Conducting Business or Undertaking (PCBU) who needs to make the decision to change. All of this activity occurs within, and due to, the culture of each workplace and work location.  OHS lives within, and affects, each company’s organisational culture but a safety subculture is almost invisible, so it is worth looking at the broader organisational culture and there is no better show, at the moment in Australia, than The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (the Banking Royal Commission).

Public submissions are littered with references to culture but it is worth looking more closely at what one of the corporate financial regulators said in a submission in April 2018.  The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) wrote:

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