Taking Total Cost of Injury seriously could substantially change how safety is managed

Cost is the last consideration in occupational health and safety (OHS) but is usually the first consideration in all other decisions.  “Can we afford to improve something? No.  So let’s do something else”.  There is something fundamentally skewed in determining the cost-benefit analysis when it comes to workplace safety. For several years Safe Work Australia (SWA)…

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Wellness programs need to fit business management

Recently Corporate Bodies International circulated an annual membership offer (no costs listed in this link) to its Australian market.  It said:

“Employees and their families have access over to over 300 live webinars and exercise classes, monthly health videos, posters, online GP, Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist appointments – from anywhere in the world, just to name a few of the inclusions. All of this for little more than the cost of a cup of coffee.”

It is the last line that requires a bit more consideration as no program only costs just what marketers claim.

Business cartoon about lowering insurance costs by having fit, exercising employees.

The CBI offer included a link to a flyer about its Healthy Bodies Subscription which involves $A1,800 per annum for companies with less than 100 staff to about ten times that for a much larger number of staff. The services extend from webinars, posters for toilet walls and newsletters to “GP2U Online GP Access” which involves:

“Diagnosis, immediate prescriptions, specialist referrals and medical certificates, all from the convenience of the office. Designed for critical workers or the executive team, minimising work disruption”.

For an organisation that has no occupational health and safety (OHS), Human Resources or well-being resources, purchasing a package like this may be financially attractive but it can also lock one into a pool of medical advisors that could generate conflicts later on with, for instance, insurers, legal representatives, project partners and others. The provision of “immediate prescriptions” may also be a benefit that needs some further investigation – prescriptions by who? For any medication?

A company needs to decide whether it wants to be in total control of the medical services it may offer, or may need to offer, to its employees and whether subscriptions are sufficiently responsive to meet the fluctuations that occur with any workforce and with the business’ profitability.

It is also worth considering whether employees can choose to opt-out and continue being diagnosed or treated by their own physician.  How would such a corporate subscription allow for this worker right?  If the worker opts out, would this be seen as being disloyal? Would this reduce the number of workers covered by the subscription and affect the overall cost to the company?

Owning the welfare program for one’s own employees allows a company to shop for the best deal and to tailor the program to match the fluctuations of the company’s needs. Would this cost more than the subscription fees in the table above? Almost certainly, IF the subscription cost was the only cost involved.  It is important to look beyond cost to operating costs like management control, good governance and due diligence – to the broader context to which occupational health and safety law is pushing Australian companies.  These factors are rarely costed and are frequently overlooked, probably as a consequence of not being measured.  It is a shame that such “intangibles” are accepted as part of economic assessments but are dismissed in relation to OHS.

Kevin Jones

Cabbage Salad and Safety podcast – Episode 4

Podcasting is not always as easy as talking to a microphone or interviewing someone across a desk.  Episode 4 of the Cabbage Salad and Safety podcast that is posted online today was the third take.

Part of the challenge with podcasting is trusting that what you are saying is interesting, another part is not to talk shit.  Thankfully (we think) it was the first of these challenges that caused us to re-record.  Very few of us hear our conversations back.  Our threads of thought are usually clear to ourselves but we are unsure of how it sounds to others.  It is the difference between speaking and listening in a conversation.  Listening to what one says can be a confronting experieince.

Episode 4 uses Corr’s Mid-year Review as the launching pad for a discussion on disruption, duty of care, contractor management and my inadequacies.

The next episode will be recorded at the Safety Convention in Sydney, taking in some of the topics being presented but also including a short review of the conference.

As always, please include your comments about the podcast below or email me by clicking on my name.

Kevin Jones

Podcast tackles Safety Culture

Cabbage Salad BannerThe latest episode of the Cabbage Salad and Safety podcast is now available and includes a discussion on the perennial occupational health and safety (OHS) debate over Safety Culture.

Siobhan Flores-Walsh and I discuss the role of safety culture and its influence on contemporary safety management.  The definition is fluffy and this is part of the challenge in improving a company’s safety culture.  I think the podcast episode is a useful primer on the issue to those who are just making contact with the concept and of interest to those of us who are already dealing with safety culture and people’s expectations for it.

Cabbage Salad and Safety podcasts are changing all the time and we read all the feedback and comments that listeners have emailed in. Please have a listen and email me your thoughts for future episodes or please comment below if you prefer.

 

Kevin Jones

Corporate culture on show from ASIC at the Governance Institute

20160731_211159On 22 July 2016, the Governance Institute of Australia conducted a seminar at which John Price (pictured right), a Commissioner with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) discussed Board and Organisational Culture.  The issue of culture has been an important discussion point with ASIC and Australian businesses recently and this discussion included consideration of the role of occupational health and safety (OHS).

Although the seminar was not a speech, the discussion paralleled many of the points that Price made in this May 2016 speech.   The speech is a useful insight into how an Australian corporate regulator sees culture and it is not very different from how the OHS profession sees it.  Price references the Criminal Code that

“…defines corporate culture as including an organisation’s attitudes, policies, rules, course of conduct and practices.”

He also said that

“Culture matters to ASIC because poor culture can be a driver of poor conduct.”

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Royal Commission into juvenile detention should include OHS

Vision of the mistreatment of children in juvenile detention centres in Australia’s Northern Territory was aired on the ABC Four Corners program on 25 June 2016.  Within 24 hours, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced a Royal Commission into juvenile detention.  The treatment shown was not new and had been known by the NT Government and Ministers for several years but the quick decision for a Royal Commission shows the political influence of television and current affairs programs.  Although not yet written, part of the Royal Commission’s terms of reference should be the investigation of the workplace safety context of juvenile detention centre management and the treatment of the young inmates. Continue reading “Royal Commission into juvenile detention should include OHS”

Who is responsible for workplace safety? – Podcast

The 2nd episode of the Cabbage Salad and Safety podcast is now available.

Continue reading “Who is responsible for workplace safety? – Podcast”

Selective duty of care being applied by the Australian Government

Australia’s work health and safety (WHS) laws confirmed the modern approach to workplace safety legislation and compliance where workers and businesses are responsible for their own safety and the safety of others who may be affected by the work.  The obligations to others existed before the latest WHS law reforms but it was not widely enforced.  The

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Don’t kill anyone. Don’t seriously injure anyone.

Tooma 2016Michael Tooma (pictured right) has been a leading writer on occupational health and safety (OHS) law in Australia for some time.  He is one of the few labour lawyers who is not afraid to express an opinion although he has always spoken within the legal context.

Recently Tooma participated in a roadshow with

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A new option for avoiding OHS obligations

cover of Deferred-Prosecution-Agreements-Discussion-PaperA major motivation for occupational health and safety (OHS) improvements in many businesses is the potential damage to a company’s reputation if someone is injured or killed from the company’s operations.  Usually such an event would result in a prosecution by an OHS regulator but prosecution rates are variable and there are an increasing range of options and mechanisms, such as enforceable undertakings, available to companies in order to avoid a prosecution or financial penalty.

A new prosecution option has recently gained the attention of the Australian Government and one with which OHS professionals should become familiar as it could spread into their field of operations.

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