SafetyConnect conference connects

This week’s SAFETYconnect conference hosted by the NSCA Foundation in Sydney had a very good strike rate of interesting speakers on its first day.  Only one speaker missed the safety mark – it was as if they had been handed a marketing presentation instead of safety and, regardless of the safety audience, give it anyway.

This conference was notable for the way that the ‘safety differently’/Safety II movement has moved into mainstream safety management.  The most obvious example of this was a presentation by QantasLink.

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Configuring the safety profession for the future

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In support of this year’s election of new Board members to the Safety Institute of Australia, the Safety on Tap podcast has granted each nominee ten minutes to introduce themselves.  Some of these episodes raised the following points of interest:

  • The need to change the demographics of the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession to reflect society.
  • Any organisation that is undergoing change must acknowledge that even though it may be replacing “old school” thinking and structures, sustainable progress is best achieved by accepting the future is built by “standing on the shoulders of giants”.
  • Just because an organisation or profession has been structured one way in the past does not mean that structure remains applicable for the future.

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You can learn so much more from a Near Miss – Interview with James Wood

James Wood was injured during work on an Australian mine site in 1985 resulting in spinal cord damage and other complications. For a long time, James has been telling his story to Australian workers for them to understand the risks they face, primarily, at work. I caught up with James on a very cold morning at a lovely café in Victoria’s Yarra Valley earlier this month.

SAWB: James, I heard you talk about your workplace injury and the disruption and the consequences of that at least 15 years ago at a breakfast meeting. It was extremely effective, and a powerful message. Fifteen years later you’re still doing that. Why tell your story? Why would anybody want to hear it?

JW: Well, there’s probably a couple of answers, Kevin. I share my story and my experiences because I know how my workplace accident changed my life and I know how it affected a lot of the people around me at the time. My family, workmates, friends. I believe that by sharing my story, I can give people a little bit of information about what it’s like to get hurt at work or even away from work.

I honestly hope that by telling people how I got hurt and how it changed my life, it can give people the reason to maybe use some of the training that we’re all given. To use the systems and the procedures that most workplaces have and try and stop somebody else from getting hurt.

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Reviewing fundamentals is part of cultural change

The most recent stuff-up by the Commonwealth Bank of Australia has strengthened calls for a Royal Commission into Australia’s finance and banking sector. This is of interest to workplace safety professionals because it contains the liveliest current discussion about corporate cultures – how flawed ones are supposedly behind the errors and how proactive ones are supposed to be the solution.

Occurring at the same time is a growing social movement that is recalibrating occupational health and safety (OHS) to see workers as humans of value rather than units of labour.

Paralleling all of this is increased attention on the sociology and psychology of work, perhaps linked to a decline in the neoliberalism of the past forty years.  As Australia enters the time of OHS conferences and Work Safe Month in October, it may be worth considering a couple of fundamental questions, such as absolute safety, AFAIRP, and invisible hazards.

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Cultural change programs can mask the need for change

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is increasingly being touted as an integral part of a company’s organisational culture.  Sometime this is described as a workplace, or safety, culture.  If OHS is to be considered thus, it is important to understand other cultural perspectives.  One of the most prominent in Australia, at the moment, is the culture of the banking sector.  

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