One of the arguments that occupational health and safety (OHS) consultants use to convince employers of the importance of workplace safety is that good safety management will increase productivity through the reduction of disruptive incidents. But there are various types of productivity. Multi-factorial productivity (what business lobbyists usually talk about) is declining in Australia BUT labour productivity has been steadily increasing for years, until only recently.
Crikey newsletter keeps pointing out this reality to its readers because the official data is being ignored by many business commentators and advocates who continue to claim that (labour) productivity is declining or in crisis. The discussion usually revolves around company tax rates but it is an important differentiation for OHS professionals and safety advocates.
It seems that workers and companies have taken heed of the urging to work smarter and not harder but how does OHS fit with all of this? It is difficult to know because any correlation between OHS data and labour productivity has not yet been made. (Partly this is because OHS data continues to be based on workers’ compensation claims rather than incident data and associated costs; I’ve banged on about that enough). It may be that good safety management = less incidents = greater productivity = greater profits but the evidence for that flow does not seem to exist outside of anecdotes or vague economic logic.
And it is evidence that the OHS profession is going to need if it is to continue using the productivity/safety/disruption argument in a very crowded and competitive market of business consultants.
In previous writings about gender and occupational health and safety (OHS), the work of Jerald Greenberg was mentioned, particularly his book “Insidious Workplace Behaviour”. His perspective seems even more pertinent today as many of us are weaving our way cautiously through communications and interactions with our work colleagues as we clarify what is acceptable behaviour so as to avoid offence or accusations of bullying and sexual harassment.
SafetyAtWorkBlog’s position is that sexual harassment is part of OHS and safety management systems due to the potential physical and psychological harm, in a similar way that bullying became an OHS concern.
Greenberg researches organisational behaviour and has written about corporate misdeeds and misbehaviour but he identified many precursors to some of these incidents.
A crucial element in achieving the aims of the independent review into WorkSafe Victoria, as discussed in an earlier SafetyAtWorkBlog article, seems to be the operation of the Occupational Health and Safety Advisory Committee (OHSAC). It was difficult to obtain a list of the current members of OHSAC. Due to the appointments being considered “ministerial”, WorkSafe would not reveal memberships.
But it is worth considering whether this type of tripartite-dominated committee is the most suitable or effective way of consulting on occupational health and safety issues. Can it represent the gig economy and new work arrangements? Given the broadening of OHS into mental health and wellness, does the current membership still represent OHS? Where’s the Human Resources representative? Does OHSAC membership fit with the diversity we now expect from our company Boards? But, above all else, does the growth in social media make these often plodding, and sometimes secretive, processes ineffective or redundant?
A spokesperson for the Victorian Government has provided the following names of current OHSAC members as at December 2017. SafetyAtWorkBlog has added titles and links to online member profiles:
In the middle of 2017 SafetyAtWorkBlog asked why the Victorian Government was slow in releasing the report of an independent review into its occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator, WorkSafe. Victorians have received a Christmas present with the release of the report of the Independent Review of Occupational Health and Safety Compliance and Enforcement in Victoria and the Government response.
According to the Minister for Finance Robin Scott’s media release, dated 18 December 2017,
“The review was a Labor Government election commitment and made 22 recommendations – all of which the Government supports in principle.” (emphasis added)
Australia’s Office of the Chief Economist released a report on December 6 2017 whose relevance to occupational health and safety (OHS) is not immediately apparent but contributes to understanding the context of OHS in modern business processes.