Avoid government interference, get in first

In occupational health and safety (OHS), there is evidence and then there is evidence. Regardless of the type of evidence, there is not as much as there should be. Many companies and organisations in Australia are required to publicly release annual reports that identify their financial status. Increasingly non-financial criteria, like OHS performance, is being included in these reports but why isn’t this mandatory and why isn’t it of a consistent type? Late on 2019, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) looked at the issue of OHS reporting, with some assistance from EY.

ACSI’s CEO, Louise Davidson illustrates the problem in her Foreword to the report:

“Almost one third of ASX200 companies provide their investors and other stakeholders no information on health and safety performance. For the companies that do provide some information, the disclosure often provides no insight into how many severe incidents occurred…….”

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OHS law could prevent the psychological harm of sexual harassment

The prevention of psychological harm generated by sexual harassment has been a recurring theme in the SafetyAtWorkBlog. It is heartening to see similar discussions appearing in labour law research.

An article, published in the Australian Journal of Labour Law, called “Preventing Sexual Harassment in Work: Exploring the Promise of Work Health and Safety Laws” written by Belinda Smith, Melanie Schleiger and Liam Elphick strengthens the role that occupational health and safety (OHS) laws can play in preventing sexual harassment and its harm.

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Instead of throwing stones, build a stronger house

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Stock photo of hot worker who, yes, should also be wearing long sleeves and a hat.

On 19 December 2019, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) issued a confusing and, ostensibly, three-paragraph media release about working in heat, a hazard that has been regularly analysed by SafetyAtWorkBlog. It states:

“OHS laws which are designed to keep workers safe at work need to be updated to deal with the reality of climate change, which will mean hotter days and more bushfires, resulting in conditions which are hazardous to workers, especially those who work outside.”

Paragraph 1 – update the occupational health and safety (OHS) laws. Paragraph 3 – new regulations needed:

“… we call on the Morrison Government to act urgently to implement new regulations to protect workers from these hazards.”

So which is it – enforce the old or create new?

Continue reading “Instead of throwing stones, build a stronger house”

Alright stop, collaborate and listen

On 2 December 2019, Australia’s Attorney-General, Christian Porter released a discussion paper about workplace relations in the hope of sparking contributions on how cooperative workplaces can create productivity improvements. Any discussion paper on productivity and workplace from the current conservative government is loaded with neoliberal ideology but one of the questions posed is:

“What has been the experience with techniques and practices to foster cooperative workplaces including…. Collaborative development of Health and Safety policies.”

It is not unreasonable for this to be seen as an opening for a broad discussion about the concept of Consultation included in Australia’s workplace health and safety laws, as the improvement of health and safety requires collaboration, trust respect and other elements in the discussion paper. The parallels between Collaboration and Consultation were on show at the Australian Labor Party’s national conference twelve months ago.

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Do workers have a real choice about their safety?

I apologise for spending so much time recently writing about Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws, but the discussion of these laws is illustrating many of the interpretations of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws and management.  For instance, the recent IM debate in Victoria has repeatedly mentioned the need to apply IM laws to the acts and decisions of employees, as if employees have an unfettered choice to put their safety before the wishes of their employer – a nonsensical myth.

On November 26 2019 in Victoria’s Parliament Rod Barton MP of the Transport Matters Party acknowledged that the IM laws may focus the employer’s attention on ensuring truck drivers do not work while fatigued (an obligation already required by the OHS Act).  He then said:

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