OHS Professional magazine is a mish-mash

The Safety Institute of Australia‘s OHS Professional magazine has been out for a couple of editions now and the good news is that it is improving.  The sad part is that it remains well-behind other OHS magazines.

The latest edition has contributions, finally, from a freelance writer, Liam Tung.  Liam is not an OHS professional, to my knowledge, and this shows a little in some of the generalized elements of his articles.  But the articles are at least original content and this addresses a repeated criticism of the magazine.

The SIA runs many OHS conferences but very rarely ever see these as sources of content.  The current edition of OHS Professional comes with a supplement of some article from the 2010 Safety In Action Conference.  It is a good souvenir of the conference but is very thin. Continue reading “OHS Professional magazine is a mish-mash”

Career fitness program for police has wider impacts

Australian newspapers reported that Victoria Police will be applying fitness criteria not only to police recruits but throughout their career.  Other than giving headline writers the chance for puns about “thin blue lines”, the coverage raises the long existing issue over fit-for-duty.

Workplace health and fitness is not a new issue of Victoria Police.  It used Body Mass Index as an assessment  criteria in 2009 and has politely motivated police to increase their fitness for years.  Other emergency services, such as the fire brigades, have had gyms and other programs  but the nature of the industry allowed for stations that incorporated living and exercise facilities.  Shift rosters and the patrol duties of police never allowed the same options.

Nor is this an Australian phenomenon.  South Africa instigated a similar fitness regime in March 2010.  In a terrific media grab, National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele is reported to have said:

“Police officers should be able to walk with their heads held high, their stomach in, and chest out – not the other way around….” Continue reading “Career fitness program for police has wider impacts”

OHS: The Pearl Harbour Syndrome

OHS:  The Pearl Harbour Syndrome[i]

– Poverty of Expectations –

The Japanese attack on US forces at Pearl Harbour in the Hawaiian Islands on Sunday 7th December 1941 was a military disaster for the US described as a totally unforseen and unforeseeable attack.  It shocked the American people and brought the US into WWII (essentially the next day).  The element of total surprise (‘Why were our forces so ‘unexpecting’ and unprepared?’) was defended with the implication that, ‘we were still negotiating with the government of Japan and its Emperor in good faith’ and there was no state of war between the two nations.  In a speech to congress the next day President Franklin Roosevelt called it, “… a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan”.

Controversy surrounds various aspects of the attack[ii] but it has become synonymous with surprise and astonishment.  However, research over the years suggests that in fact it was preceded by a large number of misunderstood or ignored warnings and missed signs.   The reason these were so completely missed, according to one scholar, is because of ‘poverty of expectations’ – routine attention to the obvious and reduced horizons for imaginative projections. Continue reading “OHS: The Pearl Harbour Syndrome”

Safety Cases must become a reality in the US

Some of the media, over the weekend, was critical of BP for not applying a Safety Case to the BP/Deepwater horizon oil rig.  The Safety Case is an established method of assessing risk in high-hazard organisations and should have been applied.  Whether such a technique would have made any difference is debatable as it is hypothetical.

Safety Case regimes have proven effective and are used as a default risk setting in many corporations but the story is not only one of a specific Safety Case missed opportunity.  BP is an example of corporate hypocrisy that supports the cynicism of the community to large corporations whose actions do not reflect their commitment. Continue reading “Safety Cases must become a reality in the US”

More OHS charges laid over insulation installer deaths

The OHS investigation process into the deaths of installers of insulation in Australia has led to charges being laid against Arrow Property Maintenance Pty Ltd.

On 28 June 2010, Queensland’s Department of Justice and Attorney-General has charged the company with breaches of both the  Electrical Safety Act 2002 and the Workplace Health and Safety Act 1995 following an extensive investigation into the fatal electrocution of a 16-year-old teenage insulation installer in Stanwell in 2009.

The charges relate to unsafe electrical work and unsafely working at height during the installation of fibreglass insulation.

Interestingly the Department has also mentioned in its media release (not yet available online) a separate prosecution under the Electrical Safety Act 2002 that is strengthened by it also being an

“… alleged breach of a Ministerial Notice issued on 1 November 2009 Continue reading “More OHS charges laid over insulation installer deaths”

New suicide report has something to say about workplace mental health

Work-related suicides have been in the press a lot in Australia over the last six months.  In June 2010, the Australian Government released a report into suicide called The Hidden Toll: Suicide in Australia.  It covers suicide as a social issue broadly but there are some mentions in the report about work-related suicides that are worth noting.

On social costs:

“Ms Dulcie Bird of the Dr Edward Koch Foundation argued that whole communities are often affected when a suicide occurs and described low estimates of the number of people effected by suicide as ‘a load of nonsense’. She gave the example of the suicide of a 16-year-old boy in a small town and noted her organisation had completed ’43 face-to-face interventions for that one suicide’. The Foundation commented that suicide results in the loss of the deceased person’s contribution to society as a whole. Continue reading “New suicide report has something to say about workplace mental health”

Safety professionals and regulators must think more broadly and for the future

The European Agency for Occupational Safety & Health at Work has released its Annual Report for 2009/10.  Most of the content should be familiar to those who follow EU-OSHA through their blogs and publications but it provides a good indication of the future of OHS in Europe and the methods that will applied in that future.

Annual Report - Full

One significant achievement of EU-OSHA is its anticipation of workplace hazards.  Few OHS regulators and agencies have had the resources or will to forecast the next set of hazards.  The nature of regulators has been reactive possibly because they remain largely uncertain of how to step beyond the factory fence to acknowledge OHS as a broad social element and, after decades of compartmentalising safety and health to the workplace, to try to catch up with the spread of new varieties of workplaces. Continue reading “Safety professionals and regulators must think more broadly and for the future”

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