Analysis of the WorkSafe Legislation Amendment Bill raises concerns

Several readers have expressed curiosity over the WorkSafe Legislative Amendment Bill currently in the Victorian Parliament and mentioned by lawyer Steve Bell last week.  Bell pointed to a couple of issues in the Bill and gave the impression that the Bill was aimed at tidying up some administration.  Several of the issues raised in the Bill deserve contemplation.

The Bill is still not through Parliament.  The next stage of the process will occur on April 5, 2017 but the Minster’s

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OHS changes to come in wake of the Western Australia election result

It is rare to find an occupational health and safety (OHS) seminar that is captivating but there is almost always some useful bits of safety information, hopefully enough to make attendance worthwhile.

On March 24, 2017 the Safety Institute of Australia and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) held the annual breakfast seminar in Melbourne.  Speakers included representatives from the HSF law firm, the SIA, WorkSafe Victoria and SafeSearch.  Perhaps of most interest was HSF’s senior associate from Perth, Sam Witton (pictured), who outlined the OHS changes likely in Western Australia now the Australian Labor Party (ALP) is in power.

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Practicable or practical – let’s call the whole thing off

Jargon can help create a subculture.  This can be positive for those on the inside but relies on excluding others.  Occupational health and safety (OHS) is no different and one of the best illustrations of OHS jargon is “practicable”.  This was emphasised recently in a document released by WorkSafe WA where “practicable” had lost out to “practical”.

The guidance also omitted the duties of builders for the health and safety of those affected by their work.

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Safe Driving affected by leadership

New Australian research into work-related driving shows how organisations mishandle the risks.  The first paragraph of the research clearly shows the significance of the hazard:

“Road traffic injury is the leading cause of work-related death in Australia. It has been estimated that one-third of all work-related deaths occur while driving for work purposes.  This emerging public health issue is not unique to Australia, with work-related traffic deaths estimated to account for 22% of work fatalities in the United States and 16% in New Zealand.  Despite this, many organisations employing individuals to drive a vehicle as part of their work are unaware of the factors that may act to reduce work-related traffic injury and deaths.”

This research illustrates the need to integrate the functions of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) professionals, Risk Managers and Fleet Managers within organisations and across government agencies to address a significant public health issues in a more effective manner.

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US says “nothing to see here, move along”

The United States media continues to scrutinise the Department of Labor (DoL).  On March 13 2017, The New York Times (NYT) expressed concerns about the lack of official media releases from the department, comparing the actions under a Trump administration against the Obama occupational health and safety (OHS) strategy.  Some are claiming this to be a deliberate strategy but, until the Labor Secretary is confirmed, it may simply be caution.  Such an apparently simple action can have broader effects on OHS management, as Australia learnt. Continue reading “US says “nothing to see here, move along””

Evidence says don’t rely on manual handling training as it doesn’t work

Everyone knows the safe lifting techniques – keep your back straight, keep the load close to your body and bend your knees – because they have done the proper  training.  Well scrap that training!  According to new guidance from Workplace Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ):

“The research evidence shows that providing lifting technique training is not effective in minimising the risk of injury from manual tasks.”

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USA joins the red tape review rollercoaster

Melania Trump plagiarised a Michelle Obama speech.  Following the signing of an Executive Order to reform regulations, perhaps President Trump could echo these words from a similarly-themed Executive Order of President Bill Clinton in 1993:

“The American people deserve a regulatory system that works for them, not against them: a regulatory system that protects and improves their health, safety, environment, and well-being and improves the performance of the economy without imposing unacceptable or unreasonable costs on society: – regulatory policies that recognize that the private sector and private markets are the best engine for economic growth: regulatory approaches that respect the role of State, local, and tribal governments; and regulations that are effective, consistent, sensible, and understandable. We do not have such a regulatory system today”

President Trump has set the United States bureaucracy a task that has already been undertaken by the

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Poor worker safety through gov’t disinterest and high unemployment

Dhaka, Bangladesh – April 29, 2013: A view of collapsed Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh. Over 1,130 workers of apparel factories were killed and 2500 others were injured when the eight-storey factory build collapsed on the outskirts of Bangladesh capital Dhaka in 2013. Bangladesh is one of the major countries supplying ready-made garments to leading apparel brands of USA and Europe. Bangladesh also earns over US$ 28 billion a year by exporting apparel items.

The current edition of SouthAsia magazine has a short report on occupational health and safety (OHS) in Bangladesh that illustrate the political and social challenges for workers and citizens in a country. The article, “Poor Workplace Safety” (not available online) states that government data for 2016 list more than 1,225 workers killed and over 500 injured.  After these figures, and the fact that Bangladesh has a history of  catastrophic workplace disasters, the author, Mohammad Waqar Bilal, states

“In fact, the issue of workers’ safety has never been considered by the government on a priority basis.”

Continue reading “Poor worker safety through gov’t disinterest and high unemployment”

The challenges for Trump’s (Plan B) Labor Secretary could be huge and disruptive

Following the resignation of Andrew Puzder, President Trump has nominated Alexander Acosta to be the new Labor Secretary.  The United States media, generally, has been supportive of the nomination particularly in comparison to Puzder. However, there was a particular line in the President’s media conference that may indicate his approach to safety legislation and regulations.

“We’ve directed the elimination of regulations that undermine manufacturing and call for expedited approval of the permits needed for America and American infrastructure and that means plant, equipment, roads, bridges, factories.” (emphasis added)

President Trump’s plans for cutting regulatory red tape was forecast during his election campaign when he stated that regulations:

“…  just stopping businesses from growing.”

President Trump or his Labor Secretary nominees have not mentioned occupational health and safety (OHS) specifically but the

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“Every death is manslaughter”

The South Australian Branch of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) held a protest rally in Adelaide on 15 February 2017 in response to the political negotiations in Australia’s Parliament about the reintroduction of, what the union sees as, anti-union legislation.  Throughout the rally’s presentations (available online through the CFMEU Facebook page), the issue of occupational health and safety (OHS) was raised and it is worth looking closely at what was said and the broader political and safety context.

The issues to be addressed in the protest rally included Senator Nick Xenophon’s “deal” with Prime Minister Turnbull that the CFMEU claims will:

  • ” Make our workplaces less safe
  • Put more overseas visa workers on our building sites
  •  Cut the number of apprentices in South Australia
  •  Threaten job security and increase casual jobs
  •  Fail to mandate Australian made products on construction sites”

After Joe McDonald opened the rally, the Secretary of the CFMEU SA, Aaron Cartledge (pictured above), spoke about how workers in South Australia had been dudded on safety because the health and safety representatives (HSRs) cannot call on external safety advisers to help them with an OHS matter.  This may be the case but Cartledge’s comments illustrate a common perspective of trade unionists – a reluctance to consider safety management strategies other than those dependent on HSRs.

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