Predatory Capitalism and OHS

A fundamental aim of occupational health and safety (OHS) is the prevention of harm. To determine the most effective ways of preventing work-related harm, OHS professionals must investigate the source of harm. This requires them to look beyond their own workplaces to socioeconomic factors. Greed is the source of almost all of the world’s economic woes.

Greed manifests in the OHS context by employers not allocating sufficient resources for people to work safely and healthily. This greed, this seeking of maximum profits and excessive wealth, is supported by legislative, financial and social institutions. A new book by Ingrid Robeyns – “Limitarianism, – The Case Against Extreme Wealth” – offers several examples of how greed creates unsafe work.

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Understanding Grief

Occupational health and safety (OHS) has always dealt with death. Many of the most significant legislative and operational changes have resulted from one or more work-related deaths. The horror and tragedy of each death cause us to redouble our efforts to prevent untimely death.

The reality of occupational deaths and the quest to prevent death are crucial elements of OHS’s beliefs, philosophy and principles. Each of these deaths generates grief, an emotional and mental state that an Australian book explores from the “lived experience”.

Life After is a curious book published in 2021.

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A frustrating but informative book

There are so few occupational health and safety (OHS) books that it is often necessary to look outside the OHS field for answers in the OHS field. One example of such a book is “Work Psychology – The Basics” by Dr Laura Dean and Fran Cousans. The authors could have increased their readership and scope if they had also considered psychosocial issues more closely, but this book is about psychology. Even so, some useful perspectives are offered.

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“Backbone of the Nation” and safety

In 1984 I was in England during the miners’ strike, a period of profound social and political change in the United Kingdom. The politics of that period have always fascinated me, but my profession has also caused me to look at some of the attitudes to occupational health and safety (OHS). While holidaying recently in the UK, I purchased Backbone of the Nation, looking at both the politics and safety.

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Global Occupational Health and Safety Handbook – A Critical Review

OK, let me own up. In 1999, I wrote Working for Life A Source Book on Occupational Health for Women.  Earlier, I was posted to Indonesia to head up a program on occupational health and safety with the International Labour Organisation (ILO). I was supposed to improve the skills of labour inspectors, using specific training devised by other highly paid experts with the ILO.

What wasn’t included was how to cover corruption and studied ineptitude.  Factory inspections inevitably concluded with the uniformed inspectors carting goods ‘donated’ back home.

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Why is profit put before safety?

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is a remarkably insular profession.  It tends to narrow its focus on legislative compliance even though Social Determinants of Health is a core unit of tertiary OHS education. OHS professionals are also notably weak in understanding the business realities that their employers and customers face.  This inability to understand the economic realities is a common criticism of OHS, not reflecting “common sense” and being naïve.

To understand OHS’ limitations and potential, it is necessary to have a basic knowledge of the economic and political ideologies under which clients and employers work. “The Big Myth – How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market”, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M Conway, contributes to that understanding.

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Good book that misses important OHS perspectives

I buy at least one new book related to occupational health and safety (OHS) every week. Yes, I have a big pile of unread or, half-read books. Every now and then, one stands out, and “Resilience by Design” did just that. Initially, it was about the formatting, but then the content grabbed me. It is not a “straight” OHS book, and much of it focuses on individual interventions, but there is enough content to further the OHS discussion about psychosocial hazards and provide insight into the non-OHS perspectives of this growing area of safety management.

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