Jordan Barab provides important OHS insights

I learnt more about the politics of the United States from Doonesbury than I did from television news and analysis.  I learn more about the politics of occupational health and safety (OHS)  in the United States from Jordan Barab‘s Confined Space newsletter/blog than I do any other media source.  Although the US’s OHS legal structures are different from Australia and other Commonwealth countries, the political ideologies and maneuverings, and fads and statistics are noted by political parties outside the United States.

Recently Barab posted a Year in Review article which is obligatory reading.  His key issues included:

  • A New and Improved Congress (or at least the House)
  • A Headless Agency
  • Inspectors down, enforcement units down, penalties down
  • Return of Black Lung
  • Brett Kavanaugh
  • Regulatory Rollback
  • The Fate of the Labor Movement

Anything sound familiar in your own jurisdiction?

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Expenditure data needs more depth

An August 2018 report from Ontario’s Institute for Work and Health (IWH) opens stating:

“Whilst the financial cost of work-related injury and illness are well known, limited information is available on what employers spend to control or eliminate the causes of work-related injury and illness.”

This is questionable. The cost of traumatic injuries may be well-known and the cost to business may be well-known but only if one exempts the cost of work-related psychological health, as this survey seems to do, and only if one considers the related business costs as almost entirely workers’ compensation. There is a

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HR and Legal have failed to address sexual harassment. Could OHS do better?

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.

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Workplace suicides require organisational analyses

Some media reports on the recent suicide of another Australian Federal Police (AFP) officer indicate a change away from the dominant perspective of addressing the individual worker rather than institutional factors.

This article is not denying that suicide is a personal decision.  It is an act that most of us do not understand and struggle to do so; this is partly because, unless a note is left or the person spoke to another about their intentions, we can never be sure why someone takes their own life.  As a colleague explained to me, we try to rationalise an irrational act, or at least an act that seemed rational to the person at the time.

The Australian Federal Police has had several

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