The fluctuating grey zone of compliance

The occupational health and safety (OHS) profession operates within the legislative context of “so far as is reasonably practicable“, that band of compliance, that non-prescriptive, performance-based flexibility offered to employers to encourage them to provide safe and healthy workplaces. It could be said that OHS was easier forty years ago because the compliance band was thinner, and in some cases, compliance was determined by specialist OHS inspectors on the day of the visit.

Today, that compliance band fluctuates and can be affected by community values and expectations, as shown in a recent discussion about sexual harassment at Australia’s Fair Work Commission.

Login or subscribe to SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue reading.

Don’t be a slouch on workstation ergonomics

Office ergonomics is one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented areas of occupational health and safety (OHS). The issue of posture was discussed in an article in the New Yorker on April 15, 2024, based on a new book – “Slouch: Posture Panic in Modern America” by Beth Linker. Rebecca Mead writes that Linker analyses a time when:

“… at the onset of the twentieth century the United States became gripped by what she characterizes as a poor-posture epidemic: a widespread social contagion of slumping that could, it was feared, have deleterious effects not just upon individual health but also upon the body politic. Sitting up straight would help remedy all kinds of failings, physical and moral, and Linker traces the history of this concern: from the exchanges of nineteenth-century scientists, who first identified the possible ancestral causes of contemporary back pain, to the late-twentieth-century popularity of the Alexander Technique, Pilates, and hatha yoga.”

links added
Login or subscribe to SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue reading.

An economics perspective on overwork

As Ingrid Robeyns’ Limitarianism book hits the Australian bookshops, an earlier examination of the role of excessive profits of “affluenza” from 2005 is worth considering. How does this relate to occupational health and safety (OHS)? The prevention of harm and the reduction of risk are determined by employers deciding on what they are prepared to spend on their workers’ safety, health, and welfare. Employers are looking desperately for effective ways to meet their new psychosocial harm prevention duties. Economists identified strategies in 2005.

Login or subscribe to SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue reading.

OHS needs to create discomfort

Occupational health and safety (OHS) decision-making by employers is dominated by reasonably practicable safety and health decisions. OHS advice is similarly dominated, leading to an industry that is cowed by the need for job security and tenure. OHS teaching in tertiary institutions is also influenced, if not dominated, by what is seen as (right-wing) “business realities”.

OHS is a small part of the university curriculum. In some universities, OHS education is missing entirely. The OHS discipline is not seen as important or marketable or an important source of revenue. A new book about universities in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s may help us understand the reasons for this.

Login or subscribe to SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue reading.

The future of OHS and Safe Work Australia

Marie Boland‘s work and reviews have been prominent features in Australia’s occupational health and safety (OHS) for over a decade. Last year, she took on the CEO role at Safe Work Australia, the country’s principal workplace health and safety policy body. Recently Boland spoke to the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS).

The interview/article starts with the unavoidable moral argument for the importance of workers’ lives in Australia and the social ripple effect of deaths and serious injuries. Inevitably, economic cost is mentioned:

“Our research shows that, in the absence of work-related injuries and illnesses, Australia’s economy would be $28.6 billion larger each year, and Australians would be able to access more jobs with better pay,”

page 27, OHS Professional, March 2024

Economics is always mentioned in articles about the importance of workplace health and safety but, really, who cares?

Login or subscribe to SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue reading.

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Victoria’s Sentencing Advisory Council is conducting a public inquiry into sentencing and penalties for breaches of occupational health and safety (OHS). Public hearings are continuing, and the inquiry is receiving some well-deserved media attention.

ABC’s The Law Report recently devoted an episode to Industrial Manslaughter laws and the sentencing inquiry. The IM section of the episode was very familiar, but the sentencing inquiry was intriguing.

Login or subscribe to SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue reading.

Mental Health First Aid is not a harm prevention strategy

Courses in Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) are increasingly popular in Australia as employers struggle to understand their (new) occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations to provide psychologically safe and healthy work environments. However, MHFA and OHS are fundamentally incompatible.

MHFA is an intervention program, while OHS requires prevention. So, employers who send staff to MHFA intending to comply with their OHS obligations are deluded.

Login or subscribe to SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue reading.
Concatenate Web Development
© Designed and developed by Concatenate Aust Pty Ltd