Where workplace bullying sits in Australia’s IR review

Cover of workplace-relations-volume1Australia’s Productivity Commission (PC) has released its final report into the Workplace Relations Framework.  Almost all media discussion has been about potential changes to penalty rates but, as mentioned in an earlier blog post, workplace bullying is part of the inquiry’s terms of reference, submissions were sought on this and the final report identifies one view on the current state of play.

The Australian newspaper has summarised the report as rubbish while The Age has described it as a “fair assessment“.  These polarised interpretations say more about mainstream media ideologies than they do about the report, but they reflect the dichotomy between unions and business and the Left and the Right, and need to be remembered when reading their articles about occupational health and safety (OHS).

Volume 2 of the PC’s report includes a chapter (19) specifically addressing workplace bullying but the issue crops up throughout  Volume 1 to illustrate the Fair Work Commission’s operations, where bullying fits in the workplace relations framework and even as bullying relates to breastfeeding.

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Zero Harm is dead, long live ……whatever comes next

Zero Harm was an enormously popular motivational aim for OHS.  It originated as a response in some large organisations where safety performance was plateauing and who felt that they had achieved as much as they could in redesigning work and improving physical safety.  The plateauing led to frustration and a reassessment of safety practices.  The remaining variable was seen to be the worker and so slogans were instigated to increase the care (or mindfulness) of workers.

However, this assessment seems to have taken the traditional, and shallow, approach.  One variable is, of course the worker but the assessors failed to see that the organisational structure and operations were, or should be, variable too.  In the words of the current Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, this variability, this adaptability, could lead to innovation, economic growth and increased sustainability.

The promotion of the zero harm approach to safety could be seen as a safety dead-end and an indication that organisations were fixed on only seeing the dead-end.  Safety thinkers, and there are a few, offered ways out of the dead-end by thinking differently about what we know.

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Look back at the OHS books of 2015

All professionals need to keep up with contemporary thinking and not only in their own discipline.  Below is a list of the books that I have read and reviewed in 2015.  This is followed by a list of the books still in my reading pile that I will get round to soon.

Books I have written about this year:

Workplace Bullying by Joseph Catanzariti and Keryl Egan

Job Quality in Australia edited by Angela Knox and Chris Warhurst

Master Work Health and Safety Guide 2nd Edition, CCH Wolter Klouwers

Ten Pathways to Death and Disaster – Learning from Fatal Incidents in Mines and Other High Hazard Workplaces by Michael Quinlan

Nightmare Pipeline Failures: Fantasy Planning, Black Swans and Integrity Management by Jan Hayes and Andrew Hopkins

Safe Design and Construction of Machinery – Regulation, Practice and Performance by Elizabeth Bluff Continue reading “Look back at the OHS books of 2015”

SafetyAtWorkBlog’s most popular articles of 2015

SafetyAtWorkBlog has had a successful 2015, consolidating itself as a valid independent voice on workplace health and safety, particularly in Australia. But readers don’t get access to some of the statistics for the site and as a year in review exercise below are the top five most-read articles written in 2015, highest readership first:

Impairment argument fails to convince Fair Work Commission over unfair dismissal

WorkSafe Victoria heads roll

Research raises serious questions on SIA’s certification push

Some are losing faith in the Victorian Workcover Authority 

Safety learnings from construction Continue reading “SafetyAtWorkBlog’s most popular articles of 2015”

Annual Reports can encourage SafeWash!

Annual ReportsCover of 1-s2.0-S0925753515002945-main are crucial corporate documents that should reflect the financial and organisational health and achievements of a company.  Only recently, in Australia, have Annual Reports been assessed for indications of occupational health and safety (OHS) other than fatalities.  Some of that analysis of injury data has appeared in an article in the Safety Science journal entitled “Safewash! Risk attenuation and the (Mis)reporting of corporate safety performance to investors” – an article that deserves careful consideration. Continue reading “Annual Reports can encourage SafeWash!”

Left in the abyss – the impact of a workplace death on relatives

In 2013, the University of Sydney established a research project into how workplace deaths affect the families of deceased workers.  In its information to participants, it stated:

“We are inviting you to participate in a study investigating the consequences of workplace death for surviving families. It will also consider how well official responses, such as workers’ compensation the provision of information and support, meet families’ needs. The aim is to identify improvements that will help to better manage the consequences of workplace death for surviving families.”

Two years later, the researchers have released some interim data.

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Missed lessons from work-related traffic incidents

Cover of Work-related-fatalities-involving-trucksIn early 2014 a truck driver drove his vehicle into an intersection, collided with a car resulting in the death of four out of five members of one family. The truck driver, Jobandeep Gill, has been sentenced to 10 years jail.  Video of the incident site shows a company name on the side of the van.  It is not possible to determine who Gill was driving for or what his employment status was but, regardless of this, it seems a work vehicle was involved in the death of four people, and therefore occupational safety laws (OHS) may have been broken.

It is accepted by OHS regulators that a truck is a workplace for the driver and that OHS responsibilities of all workers include

“… take reasonable care for the health and safety of persons who may be affected by the employee’s acts or omissions at a workplace…” (Section 25 of the Victorian OHS Act 2004)

On 25 November 2015, Dr Rwth Stuckey stated at an ISCRR seminar that:

“WRR (work related road) crashes [are the] leading cause of traumatic work-related fatality & injury in most westernised countries.”

So why don’t OHS regulators follow-up WRR crashes by interviewing the truck owners or the employers of the drivers?  Perhaps statistics don’t support Dr Stuckey?

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The 39 (per cent) Steps

ISCRR IICOT 251115 editAt lunchtime today, the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) conducted a short seminar of five 7-minute presentations, predominantly, from academic researchers.

The most significant statistic provided was by Dr Genevieve Grant who said that only 39% of injured workers submit claims for workers compensation.  The significance is that the Australian government, OHS regulators and policy makers rely on the number of claims being a measure of the level of workplace safety.

This figure illustrates the absurdity of many of the statements made about which is the safest State in Australia.   Continue reading “The 39 (per cent) Steps”