Addressing the invisible causes of visible harm

The trade union movement was instrumental in showing that workplace bullying was a pervasive problem in Australian workplaces.  Many Codes of Practice and guidances for workplace bullying and occupational violence were written shortly after the action by the Australian Council of Trade Unions almost two decades ago.  But, for some reason, although sexual harassment was mentioned in those early documents, it never received the attention in occupational health and safety (OHS) circles that, in hindsight, it should have.

Perhaps a more sustainable and effective strategy would be to focus on the “harassment” rather than the “sexual”, or in

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One of the most useful books about OHS law

It is difficult to make a book about occupational health and safety (OHS) law interesting.  Some try with creative design but the most successful is when laws are interpreted into real world circumstances.  Thankfully Breen Creighton and Peter Rozen have written the latter in the 4th edition of Health and Safety Law in Victoria. Independent Australian publishers, Federation Press, recognise the significance of this edition:

“This is an entirely re-written and greatly expanded edition of this standard text on occupational health and safety law in Victoria….[and]

…Critically, the new edition locates the 2004 Victorian Act firmly in the context of the harmonised work health and safety regime…”

This discussion of context lifts this book from an analysis of one State’s OHS laws to an analysis of harmonisation, which may be offer a useful counterpoint to

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The banks are having their culture changed for them and OHS needs to watch and learn

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is easy.  Change is hard.  OHS can identify  workplace hazards and risks but it is the employer or business owner or Person Conducting Business or Undertaking (PCBU) who needs to make the decision to change. All of this activity occurs within, and due to, the culture of each workplace and work location.  OHS lives within, and affects, each company’s organisational culture but a safety subculture is almost invisible, so it is worth looking at the broader organisational culture and there is no better show, at the moment in Australia, than The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry (the Banking Royal Commission).

Public submissions are littered with references to culture but it is worth looking more closely at what one of the corporate financial regulators said in a submission in April 2018.  The Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) wrote:

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People Risk = OHS for Human Resource professionals

The Governance Institute of Australia hosted a discussion about “Corporate culture and people risk — lessons from the Royal Commission”.  The seminar was worthwhile attending but there was also moments of discomfort.

The reality was that The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry was not discussed in any great detail as it was treated as a ghost hovering behind the discussion but not a scary ghost, almost a ghost of embarrassment.

And it seems that “People Risk” is what the Human Resource (HR) profession calls occupational health and safety (OHS) when it can’t bring itself to say occupational health and safety.

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Front page OHS article gives half the story

Years ago I was advised how to read a newspaper article – the first two paragraphs and the last.  The exclusive front page article in The Australian ($ paywalled) on August 15 2018 about occupational health and safety (OHS) management at Sydney’s light rail construction project is a good example of what journalists choose to write and what they are obliged to write.

“A pedestrian had ribs broken, workers have been run over and fallen in holes, and there have been near-misses that could have caused deaths or serious injuries in hundreds of safety breaches on the Sydney CBD light rail project over the past 18 months.

The extraordinary catalogue is detailed in CBD and South East Light Rail Advisory Board minutes obtained by The Australian.”

and

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