On 17 August 2017, Matthew Swinbourn of the Australian Labor Party spoke, at length, in the Western Australian Parliament about workplace safety. His address did not seem to be prompted by an industrial relations dispute or a recent fatality but is supportive of general occupational health and safety (OHS) principles and the changes in WA law to improve compatibility with the Work Health and Safety laws and obligations in other States.
The response from the former Minister for Commerce and Liberal Party member, Michael Mischin, was a curious mix of rebuttals and was one of several Parliamentarians who chose to speak about workplace safety in that State’s Legislative Council.
According to Hansard for that day, Swinbourn mentioned the substantial cost burden on individual workers and their families of workplace injuries.
“Of these costs—this was a surprising figure to me—the overwhelming majority, 95 per cent, is borne by individuals and society. Workers bore 77 per cent of those costs, the community 18 per cent and employers five per cent.”
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.
Professor Michael Quinlan has been writing about occupational health and safety (OHS) and industrial relations for several decades. His writing has matured over that time as indicated by his most recent book, Ten Pathways to Death and Disaster. In 1980, one of his articles looked at OHS through the prisms of Capitalism and Marxism. It is remarkable how much an article that was written early in Quinlan’s career and at a time when OHS was considered another country remains relevant today. This perspective contrasts strongly with the current dominant thinking on OHS and as a result sounds fresh and may offer some solutions.
In Quinlan’s 1980 article, “The Profits of Death: Workers’ Health and Capitalism”*, he writes that
“contrary to popular belief there is no objective irrefutable definition of illness”.
This could equally be applied to safety. But searching for THE definition of things can lead to everlasting colloquia of academic experts without helping those who need to work within and apply safety concepts.
It’s soon to be the tenth anniversary of the iPhone. Tech writers are preparing their articles based on comparisons of how the iPhone has changed and how it has changed the world. But there has always been a dark side to the production of the iPhone and modern technologies, as a whole.
A recent report from the UK Society of Occupational Medicine highlights several issues of note to the occupational health and safety (OHS) professional. But it is also worth looking at the SOM’s media release.
As well as offering financial costs and benefits of good occupational health management the full report also contextualises occupational health:
“The report cites a survey of 1,000 UK employers in which respondents gave their most common reasons to spend on health and wellbeing initiatives as: a motivated and healthy workforce is more productive (41%); to attract and retain staff (25%); to be perceived as a caring employer that takes duty of care requirements seriously (21%). Meanwhile, a survey of 1,000 employees found that they were more likely to choose an employer who took employee health and wellbeing seriously (66%) and would feel they have a duty to work harder for such an employer (43%). The survey results are reflective of the intangible as well as tangible benefits of occupational health.”
Continue reading “New report provides important data on occupational health”