WorkSafe acts on allegations of gruelling workplace conditions in a Victorian law firm

On October 12 2018 the Australian Financial Review (AFR) published an exclusive article about an investigation by WorkSafe Victoria into excessive working hours at an Australian law firm, King & Wood Mallesons (KWM). The article was later expanded on line.

There are several curious elements of this report that could reflect other workplaces that may experience sudden high workload demands and fatigue.  Some seem to see the significance of this article as being less about the workloads and fatigue but more about WorkSafe Victoria’s involvement in an industry sector where it does not usually play.

The Australian Government announced a Royal Commission into the Banking and Financial sectors in 2017.  It was created urgently and given only 12 months to conclude its investigations.  As a result banks and financial institutions

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Political tennis on silicosis begins

Pictured from Dr Ryan Hoy’s ANZSOM presentation

It was reported on October 11 2018 that Australia’s Health Minister, Greg Hunt, has called for:

“… state workplace regulators to immediately investigate risks to the health of stonemasons, and stop unsafe work practices.”

Some reports have said that a statement was issued:

“Mr Hunt issued a statement saying he and the Chief Medical Officer would raise the issue at a health COAG meeting in Adelaide on Friday. He said the meeting would be asked to consider whether a national dust diseases register should be developed.”

However the Minister’s Office has advised SafetyAtWorkBlog that no formal statement has been made.  This makes it a bit hard to determine what exactly he is asking for on the prevention of silicosis but the States have begun to respond.

The Victorian Minister for Health,

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By looking at the silicosis tree, we might miss the forest of dust

Rumours of a TV report on the increasing hazards of silicosis have floated around for a week or so.  On October 10 2018, the show appeared on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s 7.30 program.  But the story is much bigger than the ten minutes or so on that program.

The focus is understandably on silica but perhaps that is too specific.  Maybe the issue of dust, in general, needs more attention.

However,

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Glyphosate presents an OHS problem but maybe OHS is the path to a solution

Occupational health and safety (OHS) related decisions are made on the state of knowledge about hazards and it is up to OHS people to make sure the state of knowledge is at its best so that the best decisions can be made.  But what do you do if the state of knowledge on a hazard seems to be made purposely uncertain and that uncertainty is leading to the status quo, which also happens to provide a huge income for the owner of the product creating the hazard.

This seems to be a situation at the moment in Australia in relation to the use of the weedkiller, glyphosate, marketed heavily by the global chemical company, Monsanto.  The alleged corruption of data on which OHS people and workers base their safety decisions was perhaps one of the most disturbing elements of the recent ABC Four Corners program on the chemical (

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‘Safety Clutter’ and what to do about it

Many companies have bloated workplace procedures.  Many of these seem to involve workplace health and safety.  Some people blame this on a bureaucracy designed in the olden times by someone, that somehow still exists and is maintained by someone or some process that no one sees or knows. Some prominent Australian researchers have looked into this issue and have written about “safety clutter”* which they say is:

“…the accumulation of safety procedures, documents, roles, and activities that are performed in the name of safety, but do not contribute to the safety of operational work.”.”

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