New book on a neglected area of OHS research

Helen Lingard and Ron Wakefield have published one of the few books to look at how occupational health and safety (OHS) is structured and managed in government-funded infrastructure projects in Australia. Their new book, “Integrating Health and Safety into Construction Project Management” is the culmination of over a decade’s research into this area. The book is both a summary of that research and a launching pad for designing OHS into future infrastructure projects.

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Conspiracy accusations over rail construction project

On March 17 2019, a community radio program and podcast “The Concrete Gang” broadcast some comments about occupational health and safety (OHS) on a rail construction site in Victoria, Australia, believed to be the Aviation Rd, Laverton site. SafetyAtWorkBlog attempted to factcheck the accusations.

Construction company McConnell Dowell is providing construction services on various sites for the Level Crossing Removal Project. According to The Concrete Gang:

“… McConnell Dowell level crossing removal have had a few dramas out there what we’ve got is we’ve a live train and they’re trying to put a level crossing in while there’s a live train going.  They normally do what we call a shutdown which is an occupation where they shut down the line and they’re lifting concrete beams and build a bridge.  Well McConnell Dowell in their wisdom are trying to do it between 10-minute stops…”

“….the workers on the job have got issues because they’re obviously lifting precast elements over trains and there’s obviously no safety…”

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Making OHS an SEP (Someone Else’s Problem)

The death of Dillon Wu in 2018, is being investigated by WorkSafe Victoria and is still getting some media attention. The latest is an article in The Conversation by Associate Professor, Diana Kelly of the University of Wollongong called “Killed in the line of work duties: we need to fix dangerous loopholes in health and safety laws“.

This article focuses on the confusion over occupational health and safety (OHS) responsibility as Wu was a labour hire worker placed at Marshall Lethlean Industries by the Australian Industry Group. (AiGroup’s position on responsibility was given to SafetyAtWorkBlog in November 2018) It may seem that AiGroup has primary responsibility because it was Wu’s employer. But AiGroup told SafetyAtWorkBlog that

“All host employers sign agreements with AiGTS which specifically require the host employer to ensure apprentices are supervised and monitored during their engagement. “

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In an industry where there are no employers, who is responsible for workplace health and safety?

The Victorian Government has been running an inquiry for a little while on the “on-demand workforce”, a term which seems to be a synonym for the gig economy. The government recently extended the deadline for public submissions. This is often a sign that inquiries are struggling for information which is almost an inevitable consequence if you schedule an inquiry over the Christmas/New Year break.

This inquiry has direct relevance to occupational health and safety (OHS) and vice versa.

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‘Safety Clutter’ and what to do about it

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.”.”

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