New OHS statistics expand our understanding of work injuries and mental health

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.

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Latest safety culture report on construction has lessons for all

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.

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Can flexible work arrangements apply 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.

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SWMS deficiencies are symptoms of bigger OHS challenges

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

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Grenfell Tower and other incidents illustrate major deficiencies in OHS perceptions

A recent investigative report into workplace safety at Los Alamos laboratory in the United States included this statement:

“The Center’s probe revealed worker safety risks, previously unpublicized accidents, and dangerously lax management practices at other nuclear weapons-related facilities. The investigation further found that penalties for these practices were relatively light, and that many of the firms that run these facilities were awarded tens of millions of dollars in profits in the same years that major safety lapses occurred. Some were awarded new contracts despite repeated, avoidable accidents, including some that exposed workers to radiation.”

The whole article deserves reading but this paragraph in particular illustrates that deficiencies in procurement apply to large organisations in high risk sectors just as much as it can in the small to medium-sized business sector.  A major reason is that detailed and diligent procurement has been seen as red tape and it seems to have taken disasters like Grenfell Tower to illustrate the moral deficiencies and short-term economic fantasies of

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