The reality is all about perception

Occupational health and safety (OHS) policy makers are keen on making decisions based on evidence.  But evidence seems hard to get, for many reasons.

Some people, including those in workplace relations and OHS, often fill the evidence gap with “anecdotal evidence”.  Frequently people being interviewed are asked for evidence to substantiate their claims and respond that “anecdotally” there is a problem yet there is no sample size for this evidence, there is no clarity or definition of the incident or issue – it is simply “what I heard” or “what I’ve been told”.  Using anecdotal evidence is okay as long as its inherent uncertainty is acknowledged and it is not used as a basis for substantial change.

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Detention Royal Commission touches on workplace safety

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In June 2016, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation showed an investigation report into the detention of children who had broken the law in the Northern Territory.  The revelations of maltreatment were so confronting that a Royal Commission was announced by the Australian Government very shortly after.  The Commission’s final report was tabled in Parliament on November 17 2017.

All Australian workplaces are subject to clear occupational health and safety duties and obligations that relate to workers and to those who may be affected by the workplace and activities.  (The SafetyAtWorkBlog article “Royal Commission into juvenile detention should include OHS” discusses this at length.)

A brief search of the Final Report of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory shows an acknowledgement of the OHS perspective but with little discussion of it. Continue reading “Detention Royal Commission touches on workplace safety”

New quad bike safety taskforce has a mid-2018 deadline

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On 24 October 2017, Australia’s Ministers for Employment and Small Business announced a new taskforce led by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that will conduct an investigation into quad bike safety.  What is different about this taskforce is that it is

  • a Federal taskforce,
  • looking at the introduction of a “quad bike product safety standard”, and
  • coordinated by the ACCC drawing on the experience of State and Federal workplace safety authorities.

Continue reading “New quad bike safety taskforce has a mid-2018 deadline”

Near Kill – Jim Ward speaks

Jim Ward is hardly known outside the Australian trade union movement but many people over the age of thirty, or in the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession, may remember the person Esso blamed for the Esso Longford explosion in 1998.  Just after the nineteenth anniversary of the incident that killed two workers and injured eight other, SafetyAtWorkBlog interviewed Ward about the incident but, more significantly, also about how that incident changed his world view.

For some time now Jim Ward has been the National OHS Director for the Australian Workers’ Union.  Here is a long interview with Ward that provides a useful perspective on OHS while Australia conducts its National Safe Work Month.

[Note: any links in the text have been applied by SafetyAtWorkBlog]

SAWB: Jim, what happened at Longford, and what did it mean for you.

JW:   So, on 25 September 1998, I got up out of bed and went to work, just as I’d done for the previous 18 years of my working life, at the Esso gas plant facility at Longford in Victoria.

There was nothing unforeseen or untoward about that particular day.  But due to, as one judge elegantly described it, “a confluence of events”, it turned out to be the most significant day of my life.

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