‘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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New reporting standard reflects the social licence

Inaccurate or insufficient data about occupational health and safety (OHS) plagues the decision-making of governments and business, and OHS professionals.  Technology has provided some hope on better datasets but only for the analysis of data, not necessarily the quality of that data. Workplace incidents and issues continue to be under-reported, especially non-traumatic incidents. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) offers a framework for better reporting of OHS issues and incidents which also improves the credibility of companies, helping to regain the trust of the community.

Recently, GRI released its latest

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Review of West Gate Bridge findings has important lessons for modern infrastructure projects

2020 will be the fiftieth anniversary of the collapse of the West Gate Bridge which resulted in, amongst others, the deaths of 35 workers, changed Victoria’s approach to occupational health and safety (OHS), instigated a Royal Commission into the disaster, strengthened trade union influence and established an industrial antagonism to the John Holland group of businesses that continues today.

Panorama of West Gate Bridge in Melbourne at sunset in summer.

Last week,

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Front page OHS article gives half the story

Years ago I was advised how to read a newspaper article – the first two paragraphs and the last.  The exclusive front page article in The Australian ($ paywalled) on August 15 2018 about occupational health and safety (OHS) management at Sydney’s light rail construction project is a good example of what journalists choose to write and what they are obliged to write.

“A pedestrian had ribs broken, workers have been run over and fallen in holes, and there have been near-misses that could have caused deaths or serious injuries in hundreds of safety breaches on the Sydney CBD light rail project over the past 18 months.

The extraordinary catalogue is detailed in CBD and South East Light Rail Advisory Board minutes obtained by The Australian.”

and

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Fixing the future by planning for the future

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) often sets the occupational health and safety (OHS) agenda, as it did on workplace stress and bullying.  On 21 May 2018 the ACTU released a research report entitled “Australia’s insecure work crisis: Fixing it for the future“.  The opening paragraph provides a clear indication of the report’s tone:

“The incidence of non-standard work in Australia is alarming. The fact that our national government and some employer groups seek to deny this reality and refuse to support reforms to better protect workers in insecure non-standard employment is a disgrace.”

There is a lot of useful information in this report but there is also a lot missing, a lot that could affect workplace safety.

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