“What gets measured, gets done” is a common phrase in corporate-speak but needs to be treated with caution in terms of occupational health and safety (OHS).
In The Australian newspaper of October 5 2017 (paywalled) an article about remuneration and innovation includes a brief but telling discussion of the perception of OHS.
Sylvia Falzon is a director of the companies Perpetual and Regis Healthcare. The article states that Falzon is a
“great believer that ‘what gets measured gets done”.
However, this belief has important limitations.
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.
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.
The Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) indirectly acknowledged the ILO theme for World Day for Safety and Health at Work in its media release for International Workers Memorial Day 2017. The ILO was calling for more, and better, data on workplace injuries and illnesses. VTHC questioned the official workplace fatality numbers issued by the government. It stated:
“A VTHC analysis shows that in 2016-17 over 200 Victorians died as a direct result of Workplace injury or illness, although the government’s official tally for the year is just 26.”
This disparity needs to be discussed across jurisdictions because occupational health and safety (OHS) data has always been incomplete, a fact acknowledged by many government inquiries in Australia for many years.
Melania Trump plagiarised a Michelle Obama speech. Following the signing of an Executive Order to reform regulations, perhaps President Trump could echo these words from a similarly-themed Executive Order of President Bill Clinton in 1993:
“The American people deserve a regulatory system that works for them, not against them: a regulatory system that protects and improves their health, safety, environment, and well-being and improves the performance of the economy without imposing unacceptable or unreasonable costs on society: – regulatory policies that recognize that the private sector and private markets are the best engine for economic growth: regulatory approaches that respect the role of State, local, and tribal governments; and regulations that are effective, consistent, sensible, and understandable. We do not have such a regulatory system today”
President Trump has set the United States bureaucracy a task that has already been undertaken by the