One of the major influencers on occupational health and safety (OHS) management in Australian has been Andrew Hopkins. His influence comes from a combination of being outside the formal OHS profession and establishing a platform that is inclusive of information from a range of sources. In short he is a sociologist.
Hopkins’ latest book has just been released. “Organising for Safety – How structure creates culture” is a radical departure to his previous books about organisational culture. Here Hopkins questions whether cultural change is the gradual spreading of new ideas and instead proposes that
“… the culture of an organisation is determined to a large extent by its organisational structure.” Page 1
He also mentions power, a concept rarely discussed in OHS and almost entirely left to exist in sociology (Oh, the need for more Humanities study!). Power pops up in Human Resources but not to the same extent.
Hopkins also refers to, and creates, organisational charts that were in place at the time of a disaster and then to the reorganised structures after the disasters. Hopkins discusses how those new structures are in direct response to the new understanding of risk from the CEOs and Boards.
On April 6 2018 Australia’s Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert released the report into Quad Bike safety prepared by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC). The report makes unsurprising safety recommendations, many of these have been coming for years. The surprise is the Minister’s decision to begin another round of consultation:
“The Government is inviting stakeholders to review and comment on the ACCC’s recommended safety standard.”
The previous paragraph in the Minister’s press statement acknowledged:
“Extensive consultation has been undertaken including with technical experts, farmers, the recreational and tourism sector, consumer groups, health and medical experts, industry and government bodies. The majority of stakeholders support a new mandatory safety standard. The ACCC’s report highlights how these safety measures including installing an operator protection device can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of injuries, particularly from rollover incidents”
An indication of the level of “extensive consultation” can be seen through the process the ACCC has been running since at least November 2017. The only possible reason for this extraordinary decision is the political desire to release the ACCC report prior to the Federal Election, only just announced as occurring on May 18, 2019.
Some media reports on the recent suicide of another Australian Federal Police (AFP) officer indicate a change away from the dominant perspective of addressing the individual worker rather than institutional factors.
This article is not denying that suicide is a personal decision. It is an act that most of us do not understand and struggle to do so; this is partly because, unless a note is left or the person spoke to another about their intentions, we can never be sure why someone takes their own life. As a colleague explained to me, we try to rationalise an irrational act, or at least an act that seemed rational to the person at the time.
The Australian Federal Police has had several
The trade union movement has often been instrumental in affecting and sometimes creating government policy on occupational health and safety (OHS). The latest generation of hazards – psychosocial – can be traced back to a survey late last century of workplace stress conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). This week the ACTU released its survey into sexual harassment at work.
The current survey should not be seen as representative of any social group other than trade union members even though the survey was completed by 10,000 of them. Also, this survey is far less likely to be as newsworthy as last century’s surveys as the agenda on workplace sexual harassment has already been established by reports from groups like Universities Australia and, especially, the current work by the Sexual Discrimination Commissioner and the Australian Human Rights Commission. It is also likely to be covered, probably as a secondary issue, in the various mental health inquiries scheduled for 2019.
The ACTU survey provides additional information to our understanding of sexual harassment at work but certainly not the whole picture.
Today, Siobhan McHale, Head of HR at Dulux posted a comment and video on LinkedIn about measuring cultural change. She introduces her post with:
“Can culture be measured? In my view it can and should be measured – in the same way as any other business activity that’s important to your success.”
The responses have been speedy and this conversation is likely to continue for sometime as McHale is monitoring the comments, some of which dispute McHale’s position.