Australian IR Minister calls for dignity, respect and trust in workplace safety

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Workers Memorial 2006 00328 April is the annual day of remembrance for those people who have died at work.  It has various names depending on local politics but the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, established by the International Labour Organization.  This year ceremonies are being held on many days around April 28.  On Wednesday 24 April, Australia’s Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, spoke at the remembrance ceremony in Brisbane.  The official speech is illustrative.

Shorten states an occupational health and safety principle:

“…we know [workplace deaths] are preventable. They are not accidents.

Let me repeat this: by far most deaths and serious injuries are predictable safety failures.

It’s not a systems’ failure or risk assessment failure, or hazard identification failure…and all those other handsome words without tears.

It is the failure that springs as a readymade monster from the knowing tolerance of small daily hazards at the daily tasks.” (emphasis added)

Even given the qualifications in the highlighted statement above Shorten believes workplace incidents are safety failures that occur due to a “knowing tolerance” of hazards.  The risk is not in the hazards themselves but in our tolerance of these hazards. Continue reading “Australian IR Minister calls for dignity, respect and trust in workplace safety”

An OHS look at the Liberal Party’s policy document

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Following on from a look at the workplace safety-related elements of the current policy document of the Australian Labor Party, it is the Liberal Party of Australia‘s turn.

PressPhoto tony abbott
Liberal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott

The Liberals, currently lead by Tony Abbott, are the Australian equivalent of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom and the Republicans in the United States and follow many of the free market principles that support capitalism. In terms of workplace safety, commitments are less obvious than those from the Left side of politics.  Often workplace safety is wrapped in other concepts and there is an expectation that benefits to workers will somehow flow on from those benefits granted to employers and business, benefits frequently termed as part of productivity.

The Liberal’s policy document entitled: Our Plan, Real Solutions for All Australians lists the following productivity improvements: Continue reading “An OHS look at the Liberal Party’s policy document”

An OHS look at the Australian Labor Party’s National Platform

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Cover of National Platform 2011 ALPThe leadership squabbles in the Australian Labor Party (ALP) have diminished  for the moment, and the next Federal election is set for September 2013.  Most everyone is tipping the ALP to lose the election.  The verb “lose” is specifically chosen, for the opposition Liberal/National coalition will probably win “by default”.  Whatever the electoral outcomes, the major political parties in Australia have current positions and policies on workplace safety.  Six months out from an election, it may be worth looking at those policies, as they currently stand. The first is that of the ALP.

The ALP has an extensive National Platform that was presented at its National Conference in 2012.  Below are some of the statements from that document as they pertain to occupational health and safety (OHS).  Some commentary is offered on these statements.

“The Labor Government places the highest priority on worker safety, particularly miner worker safety.” (page 42) Continue reading “An OHS look at the Australian Labor Party’s National Platform”

Latest review into workers compensation provides OHS clues

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Cover of src_act_review_reportThe Australian Government has released its report into a review of its national workers’ compensation scheme, Comcare, and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (SRC) Act.  Some of the media (and politicians), as it often does, has focused on the seemingly absurd compensation claims.  Few cases have gained the same degree of national and international attention as the sex case for instance, and although most workers’ compensation reports focus on post-incident treatments, there is a glimmer of  hope on occupational health and safety (OHS) in this latest review.

The report, the latest undertaken by Peter Hanks QC, states that one of the guiding principles of the SRC Act should be an acknowledgement that

“The benefit and premium structure should promote incident prevention and reduce risk of loss.” (page 25)

This would be a wonderful benchmark to apply but is likely to be overshadowed by the compensation and rehabilitation issues of the review, unless OHS professionals and practitioners continue to remind regulators that prevention is better than cure.

Peter Hanks admits in a 2012 video interview on his review that injury prevention is not part of the terms of reference but there are elements of his report that require serious consideration by OHS professionals in consultation with their Human Resources (HR) colleagues. Continue reading “Latest review into workers compensation provides OHS clues”

CSB pushes for a more effective discussion on fatigue management

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Occupational health and safety has many examples of addressing small or short-term issues rather than  facing the difficult and hard, but more sustainable, control measures. I was reminded of this by a recent media statement from the United States Chemical Safety Board (CSB) in relation to fatigue management.

In 2007 the CSB recommended that, following the Texas City refinery fire,

“the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the United Steelworkers International Union (USW) jointly lead the development of an ANSI consensus standard with guidelines for fatigue prevention in the refinery and petrochemical industries.” [links added]

The progress of API and USW in developing the 2010 ANSI-approved Recommended Practice 755 (RP 755) has been reviewed by the CSB staff and they have found the following disturbing problems:

  • “The document was not the result of an effective consensus process, and therefore does not constitute a tool that multiple stakeholders in the industry can “own.” It was not balanced in terms of stakeholder interests and perspectives, and did not sufficiently incorporate or take into account the input of experts from other industry sectors that have addressed fatigue risks. Continue reading “CSB pushes for a more effective discussion on fatigue management”