How OHS can change the world

Yesterday, I was critical of an Industrial Relations paper written by the Australian Industry Group for not integrating occupational health and safety (OHS) into the submission to Government. This omission is indicative of the conceptual silos of OHS, Industrial Relations, Human Resources, and general business decision-making, and is certainly not limited to business organisations like the AiGroup.

In a presentation at the upcoming National Health and Safety Conference conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Safety I urge OHS people to

“Provide submissions to any or all formal government inquiries, regardless of topic…”

This is an extension of the aphorism that safety is everyone’s responsibility and deserves some explanation. Through that explanation to the right people, on the right topic, at the right time, OHS could change the world.

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How logical is safety? Here’s a fresh perspective

This week I found a research paper in my inbox called “How logical is safety? An institutional logics perspective on safety at work”. The Background and Objective were, respectively:

“Occupational incidents and accidents are still commonplace in the contemporary workplace, despite increased understandings of safety.”

“This article aims to yield new insights into safety-related thinking, decisions and behaviours through the application of an institutional logics perspective.”

As most readers do, I read something and try to link it with ideas, concepts and conversations we have been involved with in the past. My brain tried to fit the use of “institutional logics” with safety culture and then with organisational culture but it did not seem to fit, and I wondered whether I should bother with institutional logics.

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Mental health change needs to break out

On May 15 2020 Australia’s National Cabinet supported the National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan developed by the National Mental Health Commission. The focus was on the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic but in the text was a reference to a National Suicide and Self Harm Monitoring System developed and run by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Given the dearth of valid data on suicide and after an earlier article questioning datasets, SafetyAtWorkBlog posed some questions to the AIHW about the monitoring system.

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Safety wins

The saga of the safety of all-terrain vehicles (ATV) in Australia is coming to a close with Honda announcing that it will not be selling its ATVs in Australia after 10th October 2021. However Honda, one of the most strident opponents of increased safety standards, is belligerent to the end.

In the media announcement of its decision, Honda says that the new safety Standard is impossible to meet on any ATV. This may be true but the quad bike manufacturers refused to accept that rider safety could be improved by redesigning the quad bike, or adding additional safety devices, to reduce the risk of rolling over. Most occupational health and safety (OHS) advocates did not argue about the validity of the safety items and actions recommended by the manufacturers – helmets, dynamic riding training etc – but saw these as supplements to after-sales crush protection devices (CPDs). The manufacturers did not.

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Running before you can walk on COVID19 and Mental Health

On May 15 2020, the Australian Government released a National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan. Mental Health has been on Prime Minister Morrison’s agenda since his election a year ago and the mental health sector is not going to be starved of government funds during his tenure.

Mental ill-health has been talked about throughout the current COVID19 Pandemic and has been forecast to increase due to the economic disruption and the requirements for social isolation. To some extent, the low numbers of COVID19 deaths in Australia has allowed it a “luxury” of addressing mental health, but some of the justifications seem not as strong as claimed and the National Mental Health Plan omits any consideration of occupational health and safety (OHS) other than for those in the health industry; the so-called “frontline workers”.

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