Gig work changes that could save lives

The New South Wales government is conducting an inquiry into the gig economy, modern versions of precarious work. There has been five deaths of food delivery workers over the last few months and this has increased media attention on the Inquiry and the issues raised.

On November 28 2020, Joellen Riley Munton, Professor of Law at the University of Technology, Sydney spoke on the Australian Broadcasting Corporations’ AM Program. Out of all the recent media discussions on gig work, Munton’s seemed the most targeted on occupational health and safety (OHS).

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Suicide statistics could benefit from a different analysis

Regular readers of this blog would be aware that I feel that the prevention of suicide gains less attention than early intervention and that mental health has dominated suicide discussions to the point that suicides without a mental health context are largely ignored. This situation is starting to change with non-psychological pressures gaining some acknowledgement, if not examination. Mental health still dominates but the pool of contributory factors is expanding.

On 30 November 2020, the Medical Journal of Australia published the best recent example of this change, an article called “Suicide by young Australians, 2006-20415: a cross-sectional analysis of national coronial data.” The most useful statement in the research report, and the media release, is:

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Thanks, but we need more

Statistics are vital to any decisions about occupational health and safety (OHS). Safe Work Australia (SWA) does a great job providing statistical packages based on the data sources it can access. Last week SWA released its 2019 report on “Work-related Traumatic Injury Fatalities” which identified vehicle collisions as, by and large, the most common cause of worker fatalities. This category may be a surprise to many readers but perhaps the most important part of the report is what is omitted.

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Accusations of cover-up at Senate Estimates

Safe Work Australia also attended Senate Estimates late last month. COVID19 is an unavoidable focus but we learnt that the latest fatality report will be released early this month, obtained more details on the response to the Boland Report, heard more about the gig economy but the climax was accusations of a coverup with Senator Deborah O’Neill (ALP) saying:

“Minister Porter… influenced Safe Work Australia—how independent; running for cover!”

page 65, Hansard
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Truck driver death is relevant to all

Well before the push for Industrial Manslaughter laws was the occupational health and safety (OHS) offence of “reckless conduct”. A media report from the LaTrobe Valley Express recently showed how one employer’s neglect of basic safety practices and processes resulted in the death on 21-year-old Damien Taifer.

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What the judge said about Dreamworld, other than the penalty

Some readers raised eyebrows on the article titled “No lessons in the Dreamworld penalty” but the point was that the occupational health and safety (OHS) due diligence and governance lessons were there months ago following the Coroner’s damning findings.

Most of the media’s attention has been on the record size of the financial penalty but looking at Judge Dowse’s decision in the case provides a better understanding of that penalty, the breaches of the safety legislation and the opinions of the judge.

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No lessons in the Dreamworld penalty

Coomera, Queensland, Australia – January 9, 2018. Exterior view of entrance to Dreamworld theme park, with stairs, building and people.

The iconic Australian theme park, Dreamworld, will never fully recover from the consequences of the deaths of four people after the Thunder River Rapids ride malfunctioned in 2016. The legal journey through the Queensland Courts finished on September 28 2020 with the handing down of a financial penalty of $3.6 million, although others could say the journey ended with the parent company’s, Ardent Leisure’s, plea of guilty, and others may pursue Ardent Leisure for civil penalties, if they can access details of Ardent Leisure’s insurance policies.

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