On January 30 2020, the Victorian Trades Hall released a new “approved safety standard” on air quality risks for outdoor workers. It is the latest of a series of alerts and guidelines generated by the persistence of bushfire smoke in urban areas of, especially, New South Wales and Victoria. Bushfire smoke is only going to become more frequent in Australia, and its persistence over weeks, requires a coordinated discussion on how Australian workplaces and practices need to change to adapt to the new climate.
Applying the most effective way to have companies comply with their occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations has been debated in Australia and elsewhere for years. The issue will arise again in 2019 and in relation Industrial Manslaughter laws as Australian States have elections, or the political climate suits.
There are several elements to the argument put by those in favour of Industrial Manslaughter laws. Workers are still being killed so the deterrence of existing OHS laws has seen to have failed. Deterrence has been based on financial penalties and workers are still being killed so financial penalties have failed. Jail time is the only option left.
This is a simplistic depiction of the argument, but it is not dissimilar to some of the public arguments. The reality is that deterrence is achieved in two ways – telling the person of the consequences of an action and enforcing those consequences.
2019 is likely to be the year when the deficiencies and advantages of the occupational health and safety (OHS) approach to the prevention and management of the psychological harm produced by work-related sexual harassment will contrast (clash?) with the approach used by the Human Resources (HR) profession. For many, many years OHS has failed to implement the control measures that the available research and guidance recommended. For the same length of time, HR has largely focused on addressing the organisational consequences of accusations of sexual harassment displaying a preference for legal action or to move the accuser out of the organisation.
These approaches persist but there is some hope that recognition of each others’ role and purpose can bridge the ideological demarcations. Australia’s inquiries into work- and non-work-related harassment have the potential to change the way psychological harm is seen, managed and, maybe, prevented.
The Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) has recently published an article about the significant Human Resources trends for 2019. The trends identified include
- “A Change of Government”
- “Gig Economy Classification”
- “Sexual Harassment”
- “Technology Trends”
SafetyAtWorkBlog will be more specific in its occupational health and safety (OHS) “trends” for 2019.
All Australian businesses are experiencing disruption. Some are embracing this as Change, but not enough. As occupational health and safety (OHS) is an unavoidable part of running a business, it is being similarly disrupted. So what can one do? I chose to read a short book called “On Disruption”. I purchased it because of the title and I had recently shared the media room at the ALP National Conference with the author, Katherine Murphy. That the book wasn’t about OHS but about the disruption experienced by journalism, newspaper publishing and mainstream media, didn’t bother me as, being a blogger, it should still be of interest either way.
And it was. But what was surprising were the parallels between journalism and OHS. I shouldn’t have been surprised as both are, or claim to be, professions.