Every couple of months, after the release of official workplace fatality figures and serious injury, the Australian media reports the three most dangerous industries as Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry. The latest article appeared in Australia’s Fairfax Media on 17 January 2018. It is good that occupational health and safety (OHS) is gaining attention. When so little media attention is given, any publicity is useful.
However this type of article also presents some negatives, including that it may be only representing 60% of all workplace fatalities and serious injuries.
On November 9 2017, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released statistical data on work-related injury. This data included statistics from workers compensation but also statistics about hospitalised injuries that were identified as work-related but funded by sources other than workers’ compensation. The report also provides a different perspective on mental health.
In 2012, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government undertook a review of safety in its construction industry and produced a report called “Getting Home Safely“. In early 2017, the Government contracted RMIT University to review the construction sector’s work health and safety culture in the aftermath of the 2012 report and government actions since them. The September 2017 report was only recently made public.
The RMIT University report includes a very good and super-current discussion about safety culture and safety climate but its findings are of limited help in improving OHS performance in the construction sector.
On 30 October 2017, the Safety Institute of Australia and RMIT University held their annual OHS Construction Forum. This year’s theme was flexible working arrangements – a brave choice that did not really work but was indicative of safety in the construction industry generally.
Several speakers discussed well-being generally and how flexible working arrangements were critical to fostering an appropriate level of wellness. One, a labour lawyer, outlined the legislative obligations that companies have to those types of arrangements with reference to equal opportunity laws, industrial relations and anti-discrimination obligations – sadly the workplace safety laws and obligations were not mentioned. In all of the wellbeing-themed discussions, the application to the on site construction workers was rarely, if ever, mentioned.
The use and abuse of Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) has been researched in Australia for several years. SafetyAtWorkBlog has seen a copy of an unreleased report prepared for Safe Work Australia that identifies major problems with the use of SWMS but that makes recommendations which seem unlikely to achieve the level of change required.
The February 2017 report “The Efficacy of Safe Work Method Statement and WHS Management Plans in Construction” (written by