Thinking beyond one’s role on OHS

“My approach tends to be revolutionary.”

A major criticism of the Australian Prime Minister’s handling of the current bushfire disaster in South-east Australia is that he was reluctant to engage in the fire fighting or relief effort. Scott Morrison’s reason was valid – firefighting responsibilities sit with the States and Territories. The Federal Government has no direct role in this.

Australian politics, and progress, continues to be hampered by the Constitutional demarcation of National and States rights and obligations, but Morrison missed the point. One does not have to be directly involved in an event to show support and leadership, and leadership can be effective in a secondary, support role. This is equally the case for occupational health and safety (OHS).

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New Zealand leads on wellbeing

A couple of months ago, SafetyAtWorkBlog mentioned New Zealand’s Wellbeing Budget. Last week a representative of the NZ Treasury, Ruth Shinoda, spoke about it from direct experience in Melbourne at the 7th Global Healthy Workplace Summit. The Wellbeing Budget and a complimentary Living Standard Framework provide important contrasts to how Australia is valuing the healthy and safety of its citizens and workers.

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Listening anew to the voice that has always been there

The growth of visible and prominent customer services, such as those in the collective term of “gig economy” – has coincided with an increased consideration of alternative socioeconomic structures and broader political diversity, especially in the UK and to a lesser extent Australia and New Zealand. One manifestation of this change is an emerging consideration of Co-operatives and worker ownership. This may seem outside the occupational health and safety (OHS) purview of this blog but co-operatives often allow workers more input into business operations and therefore more influence on OHS standards and management. However, should this influence come from increased worker wealth or is OHS more fundamental than money?

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Industrial Manslaughter campaign messages need scrutiny

Recently the State Secretary of the CFMEU Construction & General WA, Mike Buchan, wrote in Construction Weekly about the need for Industrial Manslaughter laws in Western Australia. There are several points made that deserve some assessment and clarification.

He starts by stating that current occupational health and safety (OHS) laws are inadequate. This may be the case, but as Nicole Rosie from WorkSafe NZ has, supposedly, said “you can’t regulate your way to safety”. What may be inadequate is people’s compliance with OHS laws, and there may be many reasons for this non-compliance – ignorance, illiteracy, lack of enforcement by government, complexity of laws and guidance, and/or a total disregard. According to Buchan, and the wider trade union movement, Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws are supposed to fix this inadequacy.

Buchan writes that

“The penalties that are handed down, even when a builder is found guilty of negligence, have been a disgrace in the face of the extraordinary loss of life and the suffering of families left behind.”

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Pimp your administrative controls

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Safety risks increased, or created, by distraction are a problem as relevant to occupational health and safety (OHS) as it is across society. There are analogue solutions – remove the distracting devices – and technological solutions that are often embedded in the distracting device. Sometimes there are other solutions and one is being trialled at a small intersection in Melbourne.

These illuminated tactile pavers have been embedded in the footpath applying the logic that as people are looking down at their phone screens, a bright contrasting floor level background should attract their attention. These footpath lights are synchronised with the pedestrian traffic lights, basically bringing the traffic signals within the peripheral vision of pedestrians.

Several variations on this concept have been trialled around the world for traffic and pedestrian control but they may be more usefully applied in some workplaces, especially where passive hazard signs have become normalised.

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