“We are the safest” – No, only half right

Governments around the world love to be able to claim their State or Country as the safest in the world, when they can.  Australia has been plagued by such claims between various States but a report released on July 6 2016 shows that such claims are only half the story.

The Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) released its report about “Work-related injury and illness in Australia, 2004 to 2014“. The report makes this extraordinary finding:

“Across Australia, there are twice as many estimated work-related injuries as there are accepted workers compensation claims. This indicates that many injuries do not progress into the nations workers compensation systems” (page 2)

This statement seems to indicate that political statements made on the basis of workers’ compensation data, the major rationale for most of the “we are the safest” statements, are only half right!

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If worker engagement is lacking, reassess the product

Australian companies continue to introduce workplace wellness programs when the evidence for their effectiveness is still weak.  A major reason for this weakness is that many workers do not see health and wellness as part of the workplace’s role. It is also a problem that the American motivation for workplace wellness is not relevant to Australia.

What’s perhaps more worrying is that wellness programs often get more prominence than occupational health and safety interventions that do work but are less “sexy”.

A March 2016 article in EHS Today illustrates some of these issues.

Continue reading “If worker engagement is lacking, reassess the product”

OHS reality and common sense

On the eve of International Workers Memorial Day, I attended a seminar about the management of fatalities and serious injuries conducted by a group of risk management and insurance agents.  Prevention was not on the agenda which led to some surprising statements.

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WorkSafe and politicians continue to confuse

On March 4, 2016 WorkSafe Victoria released a media statement with the headline:

“WorkSafe announces new safety record in half-year results”

The headline was reinforced (or the other way round) in the body of the statement with

“The rate of injuries in Victorian workplaces has reached a new record low, according to the half-yearly results released yesterday by WorkSafe Victoria.”

But then states that

“As of 31 December 2015 there were 7 claims per million hours worked (MHW) in Victorian workplaces, compared to 7.34 claims recorded at the end of 2014/15 – a fall of 4.6 per cent.”

So what is it – a record low number of injuries or a record low number of workers’ compensation claims?

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OHS cost research needs to stretch itself

Cover of 2016 WSI (1)The annual workplace safety report Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety always gets a good deal of mainstream media attention.  It deserves some of this attention as it has provided sound information on work-related injuries and injury costs for many years but it is now looking dated as it is not keeping up with current research in to the business case for safety, the move to leading indicators and the incorporation of psychosocial injuries (which are also covered by workers compensation). Continue reading “OHS cost research needs to stretch itself”

OHS benefits of motion sensors and contemporary anthropometry

Several years ago, at a workshop over the development of the next Australian National Strategy for occupational health and safety (OHS), participants were asked to forecast an issue that would appear or be useful in the next decade.  I suggested sub-dermal implants that would record or transmit real-time health data.  My suggestion was received with laughter and a little bit of horror.

The sub-dermal implants for OHS monitoring are yet to occur but the electronic collation of important health data has progressed to a high level of relevance. This not only involves measuring body stresses but the bodies themselves. Continue reading “OHS benefits of motion sensors and contemporary anthropometry”

OHS is in sports but by another name

After writing a recent article about the relevance of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws to sporting clubs, I attended a sports medicine seminar to access a different perspective on workplace safety.

2015-09-21 18.43.15Having never played sports outside the obligatory high school activities, which in my high school also included snooker?!, the world of locker rooms and team sports is foreign.  But earlier this week I learnt that where OHS professionals talk about productivity, sportspeople speak of performance, and where factories address line speed, sports physicians talk of load management.  I also learnt that professional sportspeople are exempt from workers’ compensation.

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Cry of frustration in Industrial Manslaughter Bill

Over the last few months some in Australia’s trade union movement have renewed calls for the introduction of industrial manslaughter laws in various jurisdictions. The issue has appeared both on television and online.

Curiously the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) seems to have dropped the “industrial manslaughter” terminology it has used in the past. In a 28 April 2015 media release, the ACTU stated:

““Strengthening OHS laws to make negligent companies and individual directors liable sends a clear message to employers that they must ensure people are safe at work.”

and

“Current laws need to be strengthened so that companies and company directors are liable for our safety at work.”

It seems that the charge has been left to the South Australian Greens Parliamentarian,

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New research on OHS business case

cover of business-case-for-safe-healthy-productive-workSafe Work Australia recently released its second research paper related to developing or communicating a business case for occupational health and safety (OHS).  The paper has been authored by Sharron O’Neill and is called “The Business Case for Safe, Healthy and Productive Work – Implications for resource allocation: Procurement, Contracting and infrastructure decisions“.  O’Neill’s paper clearly challenges the dominant thinking of OHS and costs.

O’Neill states that the quality of previous analyses of OHS business costs have been “fundamentally poor”, partly because

“Rather than strategically examining the cost-benefit to business of work health and safety, the typical ‘silo’-driven analysis produces a narrow focus on a very different concept; the cost-benefit to business of health and safety interventions. This has obscured much of the potential for improving  organisational productivity and operational decision-making.” (page 4, link added)

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