Occupational health and safety (OHS) needs to talk more about failure, in a similar way that other business processes are dissected and reported. But the challenge to this, and I think the main reasons failure is not discussed, is that OHS failures result in serious injuries, life-altering conditions and deaths. OHS shares something with the medical profession which “buries its mistakes”. There appears to be something shameful in talking about these failures in public, although the OHS profession is full of chatty anecdotes in private.
One of the ways for OHS to discuss these uncomfortable experiences is to focus on Harm rather than legalities and the chase for compliance.
The first paragraph in Derek Brookes‘ new book, “Beyond Harm“, seems to speak to the OHS profession:
Zero Harm is hardly ever mentioned in Australia’s academic occupational health and safety (OHS) conferences, except maybe with a little snigger. But it was prominent at the NSCAV Foundation’s SafetyConnect conference in late August 2019. This was partly because this conference has more of a commercial bent compared to other conferences but also because several international speakers from Asia were able to clarify what was meant by the term.
This conference had an enviable number of prominent Asian OHS professionals and engineers. One of them Ho Siong Hin (pictured above) explained the application of Vision Zero by the Singaporean government and business community.
Australian seems to be leading in the investigation of the (secondary) familial and social impacts of work-related death. New research from Lynda Matthews, Michael Quinlan and Philip Bohle to be publicly released soon focused on the mental health of bereaved families after a relative’s death. They found
“At a mean of 6.40 years post-death, 61 percent of participants had probable PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), 44 percent had probable MDD (major depressive disorder), and 43 percent had probable PGD (prolonged grief disorder).”
In April this year the Victorian Government’s Workplace Manslaughter Implementation Taskforce raised the following issues in its Criminal Law Reform Consultation Paper, seen by the SafetyAtWorkBlog:
- the definition of “person” in the OHS and proposed Industrial Manslaughter laws
- the establishment of negligence and the standard of care expected by the reasonable person
- the extension of Industrial Manslaughter offence to the deaths of members of the public
- whether a decision or act causes the death or only contributes to it
- exceptions to the laws beyond just volunteers
- inter-agency cooperation and coordination for effective prosecutions.
If you have any information about safety-related issues or incidents, remember that SafetyAtWorkBlog operates a confidential and anonymous information line at https://safetyatworkblog.whispli.com
Documents related to the development and implementation of Industrial Manslaughter laws in Victoria and seen by SafetyAtWorkBlog say that the Department of Justice and Community Services will draft a policy paper on the laws prior to the proposed Industrial Manslaughter Bill being presented to Parliament in October or November. October’s Work Health and Safety Month promises to be lively this year.
Participants in the Workplace Fatalities and Serious Incidents Reference Group had expressed concerns about the phoenixing of companies after a workplace fatality and that workplaces where deaths have occurred should be treated as a crime scene that:
“…should not be operational until a full investigation is complete”