New Hopkins book aimed at CEOs

Professor Andrew Hopkins‘ latest book “Sacrificing Safety – Lessons for Chief Executives” complements Queensland’s Board of Inquiry into the Grosvenor mine fire in which five workers were severely burnt, a significant workplace incident for which the company, Anglo American, will not be prosecuted. Hopkins explains that the Board of Inquiry chose not to investigate the organisational causes of the incident; a situation this book seeks to redress.

The book starts with a bang in the Introduction, with a paragraph that will stay with me for some time due to its blunt honesty:

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Applying a big stick ….. of foam

South Australian (SA) Greens MP Tammy Franks has again proposed a Bill on Industrial Manslaughter (IM) to the SA Parliament. For at least the sixth time! Franks may remain unsuccessful as the recently elected Australian Labor Party has promised its own IM Bill. Either way, South Australia will likely have Industrial Manslaughter laws very soon.

In Parliament on May 4 2022, Franks reiterated the importance of these laws but also illustrated their weaknesses.

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Can you vote for OHS?

Australia is in the last few weeks of its federal election. Because it is a national election and occupational health and safety (OHS) is almost totally regulated at the State and Territory level, workplace health and safety is rarely if ever mentioned directly in campaign pledges. However, OHS does have a political campaign context if one accepts that some workplace hazards are caused or affected by social and government policies.

Australian Labor Party

The Australian Labor Party’s suite of campaign policies includes several items that could reduce the mental anguish in the community, thereby encouraging people to take jobs and making applicants more attractive to employers but there are no direct pledges on OHS. It states in its “Secure Australian Jobs” policy that:

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You can lead an opera company to water, but you can’t guarantee it will drink

Recently accusations of bullying have been made by members of Opera Australia. The details are reported in Limelight, but the newspaper article by Nathaneal Cooper is more illustrative of the general workplace mental health challenges of those in the performing arts. Performers are one of the most visible and fragile sectors of insecure and precarious work. Solutions to hazards and clues to strategic improvements might be more evident and practical if the bullying was assessed through the prism (and legislative obligations) of occupational health and safety (OHS) and insecure work.

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Nobody hates ‘”reasonably practicable” – we tolerate it

Do unions want employers to hold an absolute duty of care for work health and safety? Do unions hate the concept “as far as is reasonably practicable”?

The last Australian jurisdiction to hold employers to an absolute duty of care was New South Wales. That position was eroded by the harmonisation process and NSW OHS laws moving to the Work Health and Safety regime. An absolute duty of care, in the SafetyAtWorkBlog dictionary, is that the employer is responsible for any injuries occurring at work.

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A**hole Bosses – author perspective

Every couple of days, I receive media releases about new books, usually from Northern America, and interview opportunities with authors. If the subject ties into the themes of SafetyAtWorkBlog, I will email back for more information, including some questions. This usually results in a polite decline to cooperate as the “book does not suit your readership” or “the author feels that, although your perspective is valid, they feel it is outside his area of expertise”.

Those questions are usually about the influence of the working environment and organisational structures on management decisions and conduct. This week Tamica Sears, author of How to Tell if You’re an A**Hole Boss: A Humorous, Yet Honest Exposé on Misguided Management Behaviors, provided some perceptive responses. (Note: I have not read the book, so this is not a review)

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It’s all about the context

Occupational health and safety (OHS) should prevent any of its conference speakers from ever using the image of an iceberg or a triangle to illustrate managerial theories. The images are valid but have been done to death in conferences over the last decade.

I came to this position when recently reading a very short article on Systems Thinking by Veronica Hotton in Dumbo Feather magazine. Hotton used the iceberg as a visual metaphor for what can be seen and what is less visible but equally influential and much larger than the visible top.

Her article is a very good, succinct explanation of systems thinking for the general reader, but I was less interested in the iceberg and more in the ocean.

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