A bombshell occupational health and safety report was tabled in the Queensland Parliament on February 6, 2020. Dr Sean Brady of the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy undertook a forensic assessment of mining fatalities occurring over almost 20 years and has made recommendations that busts some mine safety myths and offers a, potentially very disruptive, way forward.
Brady issued 11 recommendations with many of them hitting the OHS regime of mining companies and safety regulators hard. As the report is over 300 pages, this article is based largely on the Executive Summary.
More details of the “WorkSafe Tax” and WorkSafe Victoria’s new infringement notices and specialist construction inspectors emerged with the appearance of the Minister for Workplace Safety, Jill Hennessy, at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing on June 14 2019.
Liberal Member of Parliament, Richard Riordan went to town on the Minister. He opened with this question:
“….I refer to budget paper 5, page 23, which shows you are ripping $700 million out of the WorkCover Authority over the forward estimates. How does taking such a massive dividend tax to the government help workplace safety?”page 5, Verified Transcript
But this issue has been bubbling along since at least 2011 when the now Premier, Daniel Andrews, vehemently opposed it.
Workplace safety is an integral element of managing any business. The acceptance of this reality by business leaders is restated every time a Chief Executive Officer claims that “safety is our number 1 priority”. The mismanagement of safety and health can also subject personal and corporate reputations to considerable damage So it is reasonable to expect some mention of occupational health and safety (OHS) in a recent survey from the Australian Industry Group concerning business prospects for 2019. Nah, nothing.
Earlier this week former chair of the Australian Government’s National Mental Health Commission, Allan Fels (pictured right) addressed a lunch hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. The topicality of his presentation stemmed from two major inquiries into mental health – one by the Federal Government and undertaken by the Productivity Commission (PC), the other is a Royal Commission from the Victorian Government. The breadth of the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the PC inquiry has generated a very broad level of interest across the social spectrum. The Royal Commission ToR are yet to be released.
Fels acknowledged the role that workplaces have in addressing mental health
Recently I searched the book shops online for some old and rare occupational health and safety (OHS) books. I often bang on about needing to understand OHS beyond our own professional and academic life times, as OHS, like any other discipline, continues to evolve.
Below are a few of the books I purchased. I am not going to have time to read them all but there are snippets of interest in each of them.
There are many books that I buy new but when some of them are a couple of hundred dollars, the only option is to look at secondhand shops or head to the local WorkSafe library.
The Safety and Health guide was published in 1993 by The Safety League of New South Wales. It includes many archaic recommendations for public and personal health but in “Safety and Health in Industry” it says this: