WorkSafe Victoria has actively campaigned against occupational violence for the last few years. The pandemic, understandably, brought the focus onto violence against emergency services workers and healthcare staff. Recently the campaign has focussed on gendered violence at work. The intention is to be inclusive, to address the variety of violent acts and the variety of people gendered violence affects, but it is not as inclusive as it could be.
Heat and the need to change work
Europe is experiencing heat at, or close to, levels never recorded before. This has caused the mainstream media to issue advice on how to avoid adverse health impacts from heat exposure. However, the necessary changes to work are not receiving the attention they should.
Australia has faced such situations before, especially in the last decade, so there is some generic occupational health and safety (OHS) available for translation to the European circumstance.Continue reading “Heat and the need to change work”
“the job is never done”
Every so often, there are sufficient numbers of workplace deaths and injuries that a government feels the need to act. In 2019, the Queensland government closed down its mining sector for a “safety reset”, which required every mine worker to be retrained in occupational health and safety (OHS). Recently Western Australia needed to act on deaths in its farming sector and has established an inquiry into the issues.
Farming is perhaps the hardest industry in which to affect change. It is dominated by male workers and farmers. It has next to no union presence. OHS inspectors rarely attend farms except after a severe injury or death.
Playing the man and not the hazard
People like Ken Phillips continue to pursue Premier Daniel Andrews and others for alleged breaches of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws over COVID19-related deaths stemming from failures in Victoria’s hotel quarantine program. On March 17 2021, the pressure to hold the Premier to account increased in the Victorian Parliament, largely under the guise of OHS duties.
On March 17, 2021, the following motion was put to the Legislative Council by the Liberal Party’s Shadow Attorney General, Edward O’Donoghue:
“… that this House calls on the Minister for Workplace Safety, the Hon Ingrid Stitt MLC, to exercise her power, confirmed in section 7(1)(a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004, to direct WorkSafe Victoria to —Hansard, pages 23-24
(1) conduct an urgent investigation into all occupational health and safety risks and corresponding responsibilities for duty holders within the Hotel Quarantine Program managed by COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria and its predecessors with responsibility for hotel quarantine;
(2) ensure the report includes details of the health and safety risks and corresponding responsibilities for duty holders;
(3) complete the inquiry and present a Report to the Minister for Workplace Safety by 31 May 2021; and
(4) cause the Report to be tabled in the Council on the next sitting day after it has been received from WorkSafe Victoria.”
Mandatory COVID19 vaccinations? Yep.
Each Monday in January 2021, workers are returning to workplaces, worksites, and offices, often with regret that the Christmas/New Year break was not long enough. This year their return is complicated by concerns about COVID19.
The major talking point, at least in Australia, is “can an employer force a worker to be vaccinated as a condition of returning to work?” and the answer seems to be “Yes”.
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”.
“So far as is reasonably practicable” is often used by scoundrels
On May 4, 2006, John Della Bosca advised the New South Wales Parliament:
“The Government will clarify that the general duties and obligations under the Act apply so far as is reasonably practicable. Ensuring the health and safety of employees will mean eliminating risks to health and safety so far as is reasonably practicable. Where it is not reasonable to eliminate a risk, employers will be required to reduce the risks to the lowest level reasonably practicable. Practical risk management does not require employers to go to extraordinary, unrealistic lengths, and never has. Rather, it requires the management of risks that are likely to affect health and safety over which the duty holder has a level of control. This is what the Government has always said, and it has always been Government policy. This is what it intends to enshrine in legislation to give greater certainty to both employers and employees.”
Della Bosca paints “so far as is reasonably practicable” (ASFAIRP) as an integral part of eliminating risks to health and Safety, and it is an integral part of OHS laws, but it is also a limitation, a condition and a concession in achieving safe and healthy workplaces and one that is drastically in need of a thorough independent review.