A sliver of hope on the farm safety horizon

Australian farm safety received several boosts last week. FarmSafe Australia released new report on agricultural injury and fatality trends. The Victorian Government gave the Victorian Farmers Federation more money to fund farm safety inspectors, again. And the Agriculture Minister established a Farm Safety Council of the usual agricultural groups. It is hard not to take many of these farm safety activities as indications of insanity by doing the same thing but expecting different results.


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How OHS can change the world

Yesterday, I was critical of an Industrial Relations paper written by the Australian Industry Group for not integrating occupational health and safety (OHS) into the submission to Government. This omission is indicative of the conceptual silos of OHS, Industrial Relations, Human Resources, and general business decision-making, and is certainly not limited to business organisations like the AiGroup.

In a presentation at the upcoming National Health and Safety Conference conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Safety I urge OHS people to

“Provide submissions to any or all formal government inquiries, regardless of topic…”

This is an extension of the aphorism that safety is everyone’s responsibility and deserves some explanation. Through that explanation to the right people, on the right topic, at the right time, OHS could change the world.

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Safety notification app

Last weekend across the road from home, two workers were on the roof of a three-storey apartment block construction installing or inspecting solar panels. No fall protection, no harnesses. I grabbed my phone to notify my local WorkSafe about this unsafe work activity. The switchboard was closed, and the phone number listed on the website was identified as only for emergencies. Was this an emergency? Not sure. By the time I worked it out, the workers were off the roof and the opportunity passed.

I now wish that my State had a notification app like that operating in New South Wales. I would have taken some photos and notified the occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator. The “Speak Up, Save Lives” app seems good, but it may also undercut the pathways to Consultation established through the OHS laws.

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Reopening challenges are more like manageable inconveniences

Many Australian workplaces will be reopening in the next few weeks.  Their productivity capacity will change, their workplaces, will change and their approach to, and understanding of, occupational health and safety (OHS) will need to change.  But there are signs that some business owners and employers are embracing risk and safety in this new operating climate but there are others who are either denying the changes needed, are struggling to think creatively, are ill-informed or are stupid.  Most of these realities were on display in a single edition of the Australian Financial Review (AFR) on May 8, 2020 (paywalled) – the primary source for this article.

The timing of the newspaper edition is important as it was published on the morning before the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, revealed the decisions of the National Cabinet. A further blog article will be produced on those decisions shortly.

Lifts and Whinging

The AFR front page carried a short story called “Elevated risks in office lifts” that shows the deficiencies of several thought processes mentioned above.

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What is needed to get us out of this crisis

As parts of the world begin to emerge from the disruption and lockdowns of COVID19 some academics and experts are advising that the future must be built on the past but should not seek to replicate it. Over a dozen prominent, global academics (listed below) have written a discussion paper to be published in the Economic & Labour Relations Review (ELRR) in June 2020 entitled “The COVID-19 pandemic: lessons on building more equal and sustainable societies” which includes discussion on workplace relations and factors affecting mental health at work. These big picture discussions are essential in the development of strategies and policies for the post-COVD19 world and occupational health and safety (OHS) has a legitimate, and some would say unique, voice.


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