Truck driving is one of the most contentious areas of occupational health and safety (OHS) in Australia. The transport industry has refined a reasonably practicable level of OHS to a high degree where levels of fatigue that would not be tolerated in other occupations are the norm. There also seems to be a negative attitude to OHS as an impediment to getting the job done rather than an investment in the health of drivers and the longevity of their careers.
These attitudes were on display recently in an inquiry into the “Importance of a viable, safe, sustainable and efficient road transport industry” undertaken by the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee of the Australian Senate.
Then current coronavirus pandemic has disrupted workplaces around the world with those most effected being low socioeconomic sectors, including those working on a casual basis or in precarious, gig occupations. Last week the Victorian Government received the final report from its Inquiry into the Victorian On-Demand Workforce. This report is likely to be crucial in assisting the government to develop a safe and healthy strategy for the post-pandemic world of work.
It is established that several major manufacturers of quad bikes have “cracked the shits” (ie had a tantrum) and now refuse to sell their vehicles to the Australian market. How to respond to this type of action is to restate the facts and this is exactly what the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) did this month when it released its Quad Bike Safety Standard fact sheet.
The latest media release from the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) shows a remarkable maturity and a newfound ability to be inclusive and topical.
The AIHS, in conjunction with several other occupational health and safety (OHS) related organisations, developed and released an important guidance on respiratory protection masks for the work environment. Not only is this super topical but the effort has the support of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), an organisation that, historically, has been reluctant to support OHS initiatives from outside trade union resources.
The primary purpose of the media release is to push the Federal Government for “the urgent establishment of a register for approved respirators (aka face masks)”, but this may be too simplistic and too narrow a focus especially when the issue of face masks is a critical part of the Governments’ plans to “reopen” the economy.
On Wednesday June 24 2020 at 1.30pm (AEST) I will be presenting my conference paper on the topic above. This is the first Australian Institute of Health and Safety conference to be conducted virtually and I am proud to be part of this year’s conference. As it is virtual, there is no limit on tickets so if you could not attend previous AIHS conferences, get to this one. Below is an extract from my paper:
The workplace fatality rates have been falling consistently for decades. Occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals seem to be busier than ever. So, the world must be safer than it has been in the past? Maybe. But this may not be the reality if we think a little deeper about the causes of harm and about the actions the OHS profession has applied.
Here is a typical graph showing the rate of workplace fatalities since 1985, when the modern OHS legislation was enacted in Victoria.