Evidence needed for the productivity benefits of workplace safety

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One of the arguments that occupational health and safety (OHS) consultants use to convince employers of the importance of workplace safety is that good safety management will increase productivity through the reduction of disruptive incidents.  But there are various types of productivity. Multi-factorial productivity (what business lobbyists usually talk about) is declining in Australia BUT labour productivity has been steadily increasing for years, until only recently.

Crikey newsletter keeps pointing out this reality to its readers because the official data is being ignored by many business commentators and advocates who continue to claim that (labour) productivity is declining or in crisis.  The discussion usually revolves around company tax rates but it is an important differentiation for OHS professionals and safety advocates.

It seems that workers and companies have taken heed of the urging to work smarter and not harder but how does OHS fit with all of this? It is difficult to know because any correlation between OHS data and labour productivity has not yet been made.  (Partly this is because OHS data continues to be based on workers’ compensation claims rather than incident data and associated costs; I’ve banged on about that enough). It may be that good safety management = less incidents = greater productivity = greater profits but the evidence for that flow does not seem to exist outside of anecdotes or vague economic logic.

And it is evidence that the OHS profession is going to need if it is to continue using the productivity/safety/disruption argument in a very crowded and competitive market of business consultants.

Kevin Jones

OHS is not all about workers compensation data

Every couple of months, after the release of official workplace fatality figures and serious injury, the Australian media reports the three most dangerous industries as Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry.  The latest article appeared in Australia’s Fairfax Media on 17 January 2018.  It is good that occupational health and safety (OHS) is gaining attention.  When so little media attention is given, any publicity is useful.

However this type of article also presents some negatives, including that it may be only representing 60% of all workplace fatalities and serious injuries.

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Banking Royal Commission should not limit our thinking about culture

Australia is to have a Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.  What’s this to do with occupational health and safety (OHS)? Not a lot, at first blush.  OHS professionals and safety practitioners need to watch this Royal Commission because it could led to a fundamental reassessment of corporate culture. The OHS discipline is beginning to understand that it operates within that organisational, or corporate, culture; the same culture that will be examined over the next twelve to eighteen months.

SafetyAtWorkBlog has

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The Safety Anarchist

Professor Sidney Dekker has a new book out called “The Safety Anarchist – 
Relying on human expertise and innovation, reducing bureaucracy and compliance“.  Last month Sidney spoke exclusively with SafetyAtWorkBlog about the issues of governance, risk assessment, the safety profession, bureaucracy, centralisation and the cost of compliance.  The full conversation is available at the Safety At Work Talks podcasts and below.

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Look to the source of workplace conflict, exploitation and injustice

Occupational health and safety advocates are pushing for safety management and strategies to refocus on people by talking about “people-centric” approaches and recalibrating legislation to re-emphasise prevention.  This push parallels society’s frustration with political strategies that favour big business, the under-investment in education and health care systems and companies that announce record profits at the same time as sacking staff.  That frustration is becoming accepted by political parties that are starting to apply more people-centric policies or by countries and States that are appointing representatives from outside the mainstream political organisations.

At a closing event for National Safe Work Month on 1 November 2017, WorkSafe Victoria’s CEO, 

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