On March 17 2023, the Australian government released the Productivity Commission’s latest 5-year Productivity Inquiry report. At well over a thousand pages, few people are going to read it to the level it deserves. Nor will I, but I have dipped into it and found a couple of important comments that relate directly to the management of occupational health and safety (OHS).
Category: industrial relations
OHS is now a fundamental human right. So what?
Last year the International Labour Organization (ILO) added occupational health and safety (OHS) to its Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. So what? I hear you cry. According to one trade union website:
“Contrary to Conventions – which are subject to ratification by individual Member States to be applicable, all Member States (187 Members) are expected to respect, promote and realize Fundamental Principles and Rights .”
This change has been a long time coming. Expect to hear a lot of discussion about this change at the 23rd World Congress in Sydney later this year, if not Ap[ril 28 and May Day. What Australia will say about this change is unknown, but it will be expected to say something.
Hubris, thy name is HR
The Human Resources (HR) sector often feeds off itself, reinforcing what it has always done, rather than seriously looking at opportunities to improve from outside its own experience and discipline. Workplace mental health is a particular example.
Recently the Human Resources Director (HRD) website promoted a new well-being survey from AON with the headline:
“Want to boost company performance? Invest more in wellbeing – Higher wellbeing scores can enhance performance by up to 55%: Aon report”
My initial response was WTF?! But after giving up some of my identity data to the website and reading the AON Report. My surprise diminished as I realised the report was just another example of comforting a profession on a workplace issue about which it is losing control.
Odd OHS comments from the Master Builders
Every year the Australian government releases a budget explaining what it plans to do over the next 12 months or longer. Business groups and trade unions often release documents submitted to the government, although whether the government requests this is unclear. Recently the Master Builders of Australia (MBA) sent through its submission (not yet publicly available). It has some interesting comments on the responsibility for occupational health and safety (OHS) and responsibility.
OHS and the big picture
There is an increasing trend to look deeper into the causal factors of workplace incidents and poor worker health in the physical and psychological contexts. This is partly due to “systems thinking” and partly dissatisfaction with failed regulatory and psychological strategies that promised so much but have failed to realise the promise. The trend needs some boosting by the occupational health and safety (OHS) community, which itself needs upskilling.
Trucking inquiries scare the Conservatives
Australia’s newspapers have recently reported on the moves by the Federal Government to review the safety and working conditions of the country’s truck drivers. As expected, The Australian newspaper is painting this as the Government paying back its ideological and financial backers – the trade unions – and the resurrection of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), even though the Government denies this will happen.
Occupational health and safety (OHS) sits behind some elements of the debate. As with most things OHS, it will not be a game-changer in a discussion over pay rates and minimum standards, but it is a serious consideration, and deservedly so.
Don’t mention profit
The primacy of profit to employers is an accepted truth. However, the size of the profit and the pathway to those profits are not absolutes, and it is in this latter context that occupational health and safety (OHS) lives.
Even though profit is a business truth, it is often a word that business representatives seem to fear. They speak of profit through synonyms like “productivity” and “competitiveness”. An example of this timidity or wariness was displayed recently by prominent businessman Michael Angwin in an opinion piece in the Australian Financial Review (paywalled) that contained many other cautious words of business jargon. Angwin misses the harm to workers and others generated by the world as he sees it.