NSW Premier surprise guest at mining safety conference dinner

In a closely guarded secret, New South Wales Premier, Kristina Keneally attended the safety conference of the New South Wales Minerals Council.  Keneally (pictured right) had previous attended NSWMC functions but in her capacity as the, then, Planning Minister.

Her speech contained a fair amount of politicking as one would expect from a politician in an election year but regrettably safety got less attention than one would expect.  The Premier spoke more generally about her government’s achievements under her leadership and how she was able to set, and enforce, clear performance benchmarks in the previous Planning portfolio.

Dr Nikki Williams NSWMC spoke very highly of the minister, as one would expect, but had to tread a fine line in complements so that she would not be seen as endorsing the Premier in an election year.  Williams instead praised the person and praised very highly.  Clearly there is a mutual respect between the two women that could proceed into a useful business/political relationship. Continue reading “NSW Premier surprise guest at mining safety conference dinner”

Professor Niki Ellis hits out at the state of OHS in Australia

“…OHS is not fit for the 21st century.  It is isolated, has a limited academic base and remit, uneven provision, lack of good quality data, a poor image and is perceived by many as the servant of the employer.”

Professor Niki Ellis speaks frankly about the OHS discipline in Australia.

Professor Niki Ellis recently was appointed the CEO of the Institute of Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) after some time in the United Kingdom and a short period as the acting chair of the Safety Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission.  Prof Ellis provided a refreshing and confronting presentation to the 2009 Comcare Conference (pictured right) that SafetyAtWorkBlog attended. Continue reading “Professor Niki Ellis hits out at the state of OHS in Australia”

Bank CEO says he ‘can’t really have work-life balance’

Mike Smith, Chief Executive Officer of the ANZ Bank provided some insights into his life as a senior executive at a conference in Sydney on 21 April 2010.  The most exciting information was a brief description of the assassination attempt on his life while working in South America but, in the context of health and safety, he also reveals a few nuggets of information.

Smith’s conference presentation was reported in the Australian Financial Review (article only available to subscribers) on 22 April 2010.  He states as a CEO “you can’t really have work-life balance”. Continue reading “Bank CEO says he ‘can’t really have work-life balance’”

Australian safety conference – confused but in a good way

Day 2 of the Safety In Action Conference is almost over and I am confused.  Some speakers say that safety cannot be improved without commitment from the most senior executives of a company.  Others are saying that safety improvement can be best achieved by trusting employees.

One speaker questioned the validity of the risk management approach to safety.  A colleague argued that this was not a return to prescriptive legislation, regulation and codes of practice but an opportunity for companies to assess their needs and set their own “rules” of compliance based on the risk assessment results, effectively determining their own level of OHS compliance.

Another speaker speculated that a particular Federal Minister may have been prosecuted under the model Work Health & Safety Act if Ministers had not been excluded from their duty of care.

Some see new the OHS laws as revolutionary, others see it as tweaking a legislative approach that is over 30 years old.

Some speakers I found thought-provoking, others thought these were facile and had lousy PowerPoint skills.

What this Safety In Action Conference in Australia has not been is dull.   Continue reading “Australian safety conference – confused but in a good way”

Phenomenology and the safety professional

In Australia, safety management is being progressed most obviously through sociology and the work of  Andrew Hopkins.  But perhaps it is possible to cut through some of the commercial  “safety culture” twaddle by looking at the work of philosophers and the concept of phenomenology.  As any modern student seems to do instead of reading the original, look to the movie.

On 20 April 2010, Australian lawyer, Andrew Douglas, channeled The Matrix in trying to challenge the thinking of the audience of OHS professionals at the Safety In Action conference.

In his conference paper, Douglas compared the positive and negative safety cultures to the blue and red pill choice that Morpheus offers Neo.   Continue reading “Phenomenology and the safety professional”

Can OHS achieve “practical wisdom”?

Continuing SafetyAtWorkBlog’s belief that the best advice on workplace safety often comes from people outside the OHS discipline, Professor Barry Schwartz of Swarthmore College was interviewed in the Australian Financial Review on 30 March 2010 (only available by subscription).  Schwartz was talking about the social and regulatory impact of the global financial crisis but his take on the obeying of, and dominance of, rules seems equally applicable in OHS.

“Schwartz says the common response to crises…..is to reach for more regulation.  But the problem is that these people who run these banks are smarter than any set of rules we can come up with.  So what will happen is that [the rule] will work for a while, and then people will find a way to subvert them.”

He goes on:

“I think a lot of the trouble that we have is that you’ve got these people who run institutions, the CEOs, make speeches about how ethical they are and they may even mean it, but the people who are actually making the day-to-day decisions know that unless they make their targets, they are going to lose their jobs. Continue reading “Can OHS achieve “practical wisdom”?”

OHS exhibitions in Australia

Australia seems to have more OHS conference now than ever before.  The growth in annual conferences seems odd in a country with such a small comparative population but perhaps because the population is spread so much and there is such a strong resource sector, perhaps it is understandable.

SafetyAtWorkBlog put some questions about the phenomenon to Marie Kinsella, the Managing Director of Australian Exhibitions & Conferences, a major provider of these conferences and trade exhibitions in Australia.  Some of her responses are below.

Has the recent global finance crisis made it more difficult for AEC to attract stallholders?

“The shows’ exhibitors have not been immune from the GFC, particularly those with international head offices, Continue reading “OHS exhibitions in Australia”