If you don’t sound the alarm, who will?

Last week the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) National Conference contained some excellent speakers and one or two stinkers. (I will not be reporting on the last speaker of the conference, who spent his first ten minutes “roasting”. i.e. insulting the delegates!) Safe Work Australia’s Marie Boland was an important and informative speaker who nudged the occupational health and safety profession to be more active.

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Can we move on from HSRs, please?

Occupational health and safety (OHS) needs new thinking. One of the most important elements of successful OHS comes from Consultation – a sensible process and one required by law. A major process for OHS consultation in those laws is through the Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs). This legislative (recommended) option was practical but is now almost an anachronism, yet the OHS regulators continue to support the process because it is in the OHS laws. And few will speak against the process because it is being maintained by the trade union movement as one of the last legacies of political influence over workplace health and safety.

This month Queensland government released its report into the review of its Work Health and Safety laws with these two of the three categories of recommendations:

  • “elevation of the role of health and safety representative (HSR) at the workplace
  • clarification of the rights of HSRs and worker representatives to permit them to effectively perform the role and functions conferred upon them and to remove unnecessary disputation,….”

The absurdity of HSRs’ persistence can be illustrated by the rumour that WorkSafe Victoria will encourage sex workers to follow the HSR consultative process through the OHS guidance expected to be released later this year.

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Is Safety Leadership for everyone or just the executives?

At last week’s Asia Pacific Occupational Safety and Health Organisation conference, I bumped into Jen Jackson, a young creative thinker on occupational health and safety (OHS) and the author of “How to Speak Human”. We had a quick chat about OHS leadership and gender issues. Below is an edited transcript with a link to the raw audio.

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Past findings may offer strategies for the future

Further to the recent article about the 2004 Maxwell Report, it is useful to note the recommendations peppered throughout the report, as collated by K Lee Adams. Although aimed at the Victorian Workcover Authority and WorkSafe Victoria, these are interesting ideas that could be asked of any occupational health and safety (OHS) authority currently. Some have already been addressed; others were posed 18 years ago and have not progressed. The recommendations have been numbered for easier reference.

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Online training, offline training. What gives?

Occupational health and safety (OHS) training has been forced to revolutionise over the last couple of plague-ridden years from face-to-face in a room to face-to-face online through Teams, Zoom and many other variations. Traditional “in-Room” training is sneaking back, but the majority remains online. However, OHS training providers in Victoria feel they are being pulled from pillar to post by WorkSafe Victoria.

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Good solid OHS profile on which to base a change strategy

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) recently released its latest State of Work Health and Safety in Australia 2021 report called “Work Shouldn’t Hurt“. ACTU’s Liam O’Brien said

“The ACTU’s 2021 Work Shouldn’t Hurt Survey revealed that 80% of workers who are injured or made ill at work do not even make a workers’ compensation claim, in the case of insecure workers this jumps to 95%. This highlights that the 120,000 workers who made a claim last year is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to measuring health and safety at work”

This is no surprise to those concerned with occupational health and safety (OHS). Sadly, the ACTU report was thin on possible solutions.

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The OHS agenda of the Australian Labor Party

Given that the protection of worker health and safety will gain more attention and support under progressive parties and governments, the release of the 2021 National Platform for the Australian Labor Party (ALP) is notable. The 2021 document, unsurprisingly, focuses on the role of Health and Safety Representatives, appealing to its financial and political trade union base as major influencers on occupational health and safety (OHS).

This article will focus on the chapters in both the 2021 and 2018 platform documents related to safe and healthy workplaces, although there are OHS-related issues dotted throughout both documents.

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