2000 Interview with Paul Kells

Recently Paul Kells passed away. Paul had a major influence on workplace health and safety awareness and promotion around the world. He was the founder of the Safe Communities Foundation in Canada. I was able to interview Paul prior to his attendance at a Symposium on the “Global Perspectives on Effective Workplace Safety Strategies” in Melbourne, Australia on the 15th and 16th of March 2000.

The full interview from the SafetyAtWork magazine is reproduced below and on open access. I think this interview and the Youtube video insert below gives a good indication of Paul’s passion and pain and our loss. (Paul’s memorial service will be on October 8)

SAW: How did the Safe Communities Foundation start and where is it at?

PAUL: My son was 19 years old and he was killed in an accident in a small warehouse in a suburb of Toronto. In this little shop, it was a small business with only 4 or 5 people there. He got the job through a friend whose father ran the business. It was the second or third day on the job and he was asked to go back and decant some fluid from a large drum to some small vessels.

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“it’s much harder to fix work than it is to fix workers”

Recently in the International Journal of Epidemiology*, Professor Tony Lamontagne and his colleagues wrote that their Australian research:

“….. showed that improving job security is strongly associated with decreasing depression and anxiety symptoms.”

This is an example of the precise research statements that LaMontagne has made over several decades, which have been enormously helpful to those occupational health and safety (OHS) advocates and professionals who choose to use them.

Recently this clarity was on display for over 90 minutes in a podcast interview with LaMontagne. It should be obligatory listening for OHS people.

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OHS is a key process for control of COVID

It is always important to note when those outside the traditional occupational health and safety (OHS) networks speak in favour of OHS and its critical role in business decisions.

On September 20 2021, ABC’s Mary Gearin spoke with Emeritus Professor Malcolm Sim of Monash University about the likelihood of mandatory vaccinations on the ABC Drive program. Sim said:

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Best Practice? Gold Standard? let’s call the whole thing off

Australians are starting to understand that having something described as “gold standard” – most recently in relation to the contact tracing services of New South Wales – is as helpful as describing occupational health and safety (OHS) laws and systems as “best practice”. These phrases are optimistic bullshit and politically fraught. The fragility of these phrases has been revealed in events as far apart as the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-21 and the Esso Longford Royal Commission of 1999. Consider this paragraph from the Esso Longford Royal Commission report and its pertinence to NSW’s contract tracing:

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Alan Jones vs Dan Andrews

Not Alan Jones

The calls continue for the Victorian Premier, Dan Andrews, to be charged with Industrial Manslaughter over COVID19-related deaths that resulted from a poorly-managed hotel quarantine program. This time the topic was picked up be one of Australia’s conservative big guns, Alan Jones.

Jones hyperbolic rhetoric was on full display in his interview with Ken Phillips, who started the Andrews Industrial Manslaughter campaign.

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Building an honest state of knowledge about suicide

Bizarre dark painting

The apparent suicide of former Australian Football player, Shane Tuck, last week has again sparked discussion in the media and the community about suicide. The Victorian Coroner, John Cain, believes that how we talk about suicide needs a review. As workplace and work-related suicides also occur, the discussion is relevant to occupational health and safety (OHS).

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Work that is meaningful, secure and safe

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is integral to how work and job should be designed in the post-COVID19 world, but you wouldn’t know it from the current discussions in the media. On May 13, 2020, the day after a major economic statement from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive of the Business Council of Australia, told ABC Radio that:

“…. there’s some pretty sobering numbers that the Treasurer gave yesterday and fundamentally I think we’ve all got to come back to basics here. This is about people’s lives and so what we have to do, as the kind of leadership dynamic, is to focus on getting people back to work and getting them into secure and meaningful work.

emphasis added

It is not unreasonable to add safety to that “secure and meaningful work”.

OHS fits into this phrase in many ways, but one of particular note is job security and its links to mental health, especially as mental health has been a policy priority repeatedly identified by Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, and others.

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