This article is part two of an edited version of a keynote presentation I made at the a special WHS Inspectors Forum organised by WorkSafe Tasmania. The audience comprised inspectors from around Australia and New Zealand. I was asked to be provocative and challenging so posed some questions to the audience about how occupational health and safety (OHS) is managed, regulated and inspected.
The audio of the presentation is available at
One of the Commissioners of Australia’s Productivity Commission (PC), Julie Abramson, spoke briefly at a lunchtime seminar on Mental Health and the Economy, hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. It is very early in the PC’s inquiry into the role of improving mental health but Abramson was able to provide some draft timelines.
Abramson told the audience that the Presiding Commissioner on this inquiry
Managing occupational health and safety (OHS) is most successful when it considers a range of perspectives or disciplines in identifying practicable solutions. Books are often successful in a similar multidisciplinary way but it is becoming rarer for books to contain a collection of perspectives. A new book has been published on Safety Culture which matches this multidisciplinary approach.
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.”.”
As readers would realise, the transcripts for the Australian Senate inquiry into industrial deaths are fascinating. It is worth looking at the other presentations and questions on the day when the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry received a grilling as this provides insight into how to present to a government inquiry addressing occupational health and safety.
The Senate Committee has probably heard more from relatives of deceased workers than has any other similar inquiry, perhaps even the Workplace Bullying inquiry in which this Committee’s member Deborah O’Neill participated. This is an indication of the shift in OHS over the last few years where the human impacts of workplace safety failures, what some describe as the “lived experience”, gain an influence that used to sit with professionals and acknowledged subject matter experts.