For What Steve Bell Tells – OHS issues for 2017

Steve Bell is a partner with Hebert Smith Freehills (HSF) in Melbourne, Australia.  As many law firms do, HSF conducts several events each year to inform clients and others of occupational health and safety (OHS) and labour relations issues.  In March 2017 Bell, who is the regular host at these events, spoke at a breakfast seminar held jointly with the Safety Institute of Australia, and identified several safety issues as becoming prominent in 2017:

  • Increased penalties
  • The risk of complacency
  • Increased interplay between OHS and industrial relations
  • Focus on public safety elements of OHS
  • the review of regulations.

Below are some thoughts on the issues raised by Steve Bell.

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Legal Professional Privilege – the snake in safety

Part of good corporate governance is transparency.  A core element of occupational health and safety (OHS) is effective consultation.  These two business practices seem compatible in that they address what is good for business and what is good for the workers.  But there is a snake in this garden of safety – Legal Professional Privilege (LPP).

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Gender diversity and effective decision making

As part of the research for a recent article on Gender and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to interview Lisa Griffiths, Chief Executive Officer of OzChild and former General Manager Health and Safety at WorkSafe Victoria. Gender equality and diversity may no seem to be an OHS issue but it is a vital element of the legislative obligation to consult and the business imperative of making that decision-making process to be a robust and effective as possible.  Too many past decisions have come from group-think and “yes men” and diversity of thought through diversity of person is desperately needed in modern safety management.

Below are some of the questions put to her, and her responses Continue reading “Gender diversity and effective decision making”

Evidence says don’t rely on manual handling training as it doesn’t work

Everyone knows the safe lifting techniques – keep your back straight, keep the load close to your body and bend your knees – because they have done the proper  training.  Well scrap that training!  According to new guidance from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ):

“The research evidence shows that providing lifting technique training is not effective in minimising the risk of injury from manual tasks.”

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Is the Deepwater Horizon movie good for safety?

This week Australia has been experiencing a safety roadshow built around the Deepwater Horizon movie and two guest speakers. The afternoon sessions have been well attended and the discussion fruitful but does the film improve the viewers’ understanding of safety or misrepresent it?

Continue reading “Is the Deepwater Horizon movie good for safety?”

Outsourcing inductions may not support good safety management

new_young_induction-pdf_extract_page_1SafetyAtWorkBlog has been critical of the use and sale of generic Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) for work tasks that can be managed through simpler and freely available job safety analyses (JSAs) and face-to-face communication. On 27 January 2017, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia (CCI) launched generic inductions.

The CCI asks and answers, in its media release:

“So why is it that so many workplaces don’t provide an induction? Our Members are telling us that they don’t really know what information they should be giving to a new starter.”

An internet search of the WorkSafeWA website would have led one to its “

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Dummies can equal clarity

ohs-dummies-coverIt took a long time but Wiley has published a Dummies guide on Health and Safety At Work. The lack of an occupational health and safety (OHS) book in this series has always been a mystery particularly when the Dummies” market seems to be, primarily, small- to medium-sized businesses.  This edition is written for the UK market but the vast majority of the book is applicable to any jurisdiction that is based on the original UK OHS laws. But is it any good?

SafetyAtWorkBlog dipped into several chapters of the book to see if it was on the right path.

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Firefighting mental health report leaked

cover-of-mfb-mental-health-reportThe Herald-Sun newspaper has released the final report into the mental health and suicide rate of Victorian metropolitan firefighters.

The report, authored by Dr Peter Cotton, found that the issues uncovered in the review of firefighters in the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) are not dissimilar from the findings of other inquiries into emergency service organisations like the police or the ambulance service.  

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Drugs and Alcohol at Work – Part 2

Part 2 of the Cabbage Salad and Safety podcast’s discussion on managing drugs and alcohol at work is now available.

 

Kevin Jones

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Safety leadership through action rather than PowerPoint

The Spring 2016 edition of National Safety magazine includes a cover story on leadership written by me.  In it John Lacey insists that safety leadership begins at the top.  This position is supported by many business and occupational health and safety (OHS) advocates but this seems to me to be based on a misunderstanding of leadership.

nsca-mag-coverIn response to a question about leadership in small- to medium-sized businesses, Lacey said that leadership “applies to all”:

“[Leadership] is not different but how to apply it will be different. The start must be from the top down. The basic values, behaviours, knowledge and systems will be defined by the organisation no matter how large or small it is.”

This is remarkably like safety culture and my response is that leadership can be displayed by anyone at any level of a company or society and can manifest at any organisational level.  The fact is that it is easier to sell a commodified leadership to executives as they are expected to show leadership in times of crisis or stockmarket uncertainty and most of us translate that into leadership of safety.

Leadership, as with most elements of OHS, takes time and effort – sometimes over generations.  This is particularly so with anything concerning corporations that are wary of change unless that change supports profit and shareholder returns. (I would argue safety increases profits and company value but this is an argument than struggles for traction)

The most abused aphorism used to justify this focus on executive leadership is that “a fish rots from the head down”. Nonsense.  As this website states, it is the guts of a fish that rots first.

fish boneThe attention given to senior executive leadership is an organisational echo of the economic trickle-down theory which has been roundly dismissed as flawed and, in some instances, has contributed to increasing socio-economic inequality.

Lacey acknowledges that anybody within an organisation can lead although leadership starts from the top.  He supports my contention that leadership occurs at all levels of a business and that actions show leadership and safety, probably, more effectively and cheaper than any training session.  Lacey says

“…even the gesture of picking-up litter or wearing the correct [personal protective equipment] in front of others in the work team can be seen as a form of leadership. Leading by example is an old but such a true saying. 

These actions are the best way of improving workplace safety and showing leadership, and for the least cost.  Safety should be improved by actions rather than PowerPoint.

Kevin Jones

[Note: please support National Safety magazine if you can.  It is not available online and only through subscription but it is one of the few hard copy OHS magazines left in Australia and one of the few, if not the last, that actually pays its writers (not as much as we’d like but that’s the continuous battle of the freelance writer).  This stance is keeping advertorials at bay and gives National Safety an integrity that is often missing in other safety publications]