This blog transitioned from a self-published magazine almost 12 years ago. In 2003, the magazine published an edition focussing on the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome ) outbreak which includes a long article by Peter Sandman and Jody Lanard on epidemics and fear, an emotion that many of us are feeling in these uncertain times. The full magazine is available for subscribers below.
It is very hard to write about any occupational health and safety (OHS) issue in this time of a global pandemic. Many of the workplace hazards continue to exist but in a different context and, of course, the duty of care on both employers and workers continues wherever work is being done. Australians, understandably, have an insular focus at the moment, but there is some benefit from looking at how national disruption has been handled elsewhere in the recent past. COVID19 is not SARS, but Singapore’s action in 2003 is useful in showing how change can be managed. This change management is likely to be a more integral part of effective OHS management for all Australian businesses once the pandemic declines.
In 2005 I was able to interview prominent risk communicator, Peter Sandman. It was a time of pandemic threats from Avian Influenza, or “Bird Flu”, and we talked about pandemics, their complications and their management. The virus situation has progressed enormously from 2005 to today’s announcement by the World Health Organisation of a coronavirus pandemic but I provide access to this interview to offer a different and historical perspective on the current outbreak of coronavirus. I also had to include my tips for managing coronavirus in Australian workplaces.
Of most interest and relevance, perhaps, is this statement from Peter Sandman:
“If you really think there is going to be a severe pandemic, the first thing you are going to want to do is organise the earliest survivors, the people who get the flu and don’t die, into delivery people. Then they can deliver food and fuel and everything people need so that everyone else can stay home .”
Safety conferences rarely generate media interest unless the relevant occupational health and safety (OHS) Minister is speaking or there has been a recent workplace death or safety scandal. At the recent SafetyConnect conference held by the NSCA Foundation in Melbourne, SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to chat with the Editor of New Zealand’s SafeGuard magazine, Peter Bateman. Peter has been editing the magazine and writing about workplace health and safety for a long time and, as an outsider to the OHS profession, he has some useful perspectives on how to communicate about safe and healthy workplaces.
SAWB: Peter, great to see you at the Safety Connect conference in Melbourne, hosted by the National Safety Council of Australia Foundation. So, day one, thanks for coming over from New Zealand. You’ve been coming to safety conferences for a long time. How important are safety conferences to your magazine given that Safeguard runs its own conferences as well?
PB: We’ve had the opportunity, through growing the credibility of the Safeguard brand through the magazine, that’s given us I think the trust and the credibility with readers so that when we launched the awards actually, the first event we launched way back in 2005 and then the main conference a couple of years later. And they were small, but they were successful in their own way and we’ve just been fortunate to grow them year on year, so New Zealand Workplace Health and Safety Awards have been going for 15 years and the main Safeguard National Health and Safety Conference for almost as long. Then from that we’ve managed to create some more specialist one-day conferences as well.
SAWB: I think I’ve seen a LegalSafe one.
PB: LegalSafe, which is more on the compliance side for those people who want more compliance side even though that’s not my particular area of interest. But I recognise that a lot of people are very focused on compliance and fair enough. Then more recently we’ve developed HealthyWork which started off as a way of bringing together traditional occupational health interests with the emerging wellbeing side but has really gone more into the wellbeing and psychosocial stuff as we’ve progressed. And in the last couple of years we’ve launched SafeSkills for H&S reps.
Another Australian Government inquiry into workplace health and safety (WHS) was announced on March 26 2018. According to the Senate Hansard, the Senate’s Education and Employment References Committee will report on a range of occupational health and safety (OHS) matters by the end of September 2018.