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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Getting the most out of your conference experience

National Suicide Prevention Conference, Melbourne, July 2019

Single-day occupational health and safety (OHS) symposia, colloquia and seminars seem to be increasing in popularity in Australia. The latest that SafetyAtWorkBlog attended was for the Victorian Institute of Occupational Safety and Health but Tasmania had a couple last year and in the upcoming months is one in Perth, one in Tasmania and another in Sydney. The advantage with this format is that

  • the event is cheap (some are free)
  • it is easier to take one day away from work than two or three days
  • the costs of running them are minimised,
  • local delegates have minimal travel costs, and
  • although the pool of delegates is usually local, it can be more diverse.

These seminars occupy the middle ground between webinar and conferences and, as a regular at these events, SafetyAtWorkBlog has some tips for organisers and delegates that will increase the value of attendance.

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Andi Csontos, OHS futurist

Andi Csontos

The future of work is usually portrayed as a future dominated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and electronic technology, and one with which humans will struggle to cope. As other industrial sectors panic over potential job losses, it may be good news for the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession which feeds on the potential for harm. The future will still contain harm, but probably new types.

Consultation has been critical to OHS and its ability to improve health and safety, but many OHS people do not have to leave the office. There activities revolve around complicated Excel spreadsheets of intricate injury classifications and risk calculations. But OHS existed long before these technological burdens, which some would describe as dead-ends and others as the accumulation of valuable data. However, talking about safety and, more important, listening to others discussing safety is the most important tool an OHS profession has and will have in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This was reinforced recently by EY’s EHS Partner Andi Csontos (pictured above) at a seminar in Ballarat Victoria. Csontos paraphrased a recent EY discussion paper:

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