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…”
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. “
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.
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.”.”
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