Most-read OHS articles in 2019

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This past week most media have been reflecting on the last twelve months or the decade. There are two ways of applying this practice to the SafetyAtWorkBlog – statistics and most-read. Let’s look at statistics first.

This year the SafetyAtWorkBlog posted 225 articles, not including this one, with an average word count of 1,030 words – the equivalent of a 230,000 word book on occupational health and safety (OHS). For those Annual subscribers that equates to just over $1.00 per article which I think is a pretty good return.

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Negligence or Neglect

At the moment, there is a growing concern about accountability of political leaders, business executives and established institutions. In Australia’s occupational health and safety (OHS) community that has manifested in a movement to introduce Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws aimed at negligent employers. These laws have caused some business sectors and leaders to, figuratively, shit themselves. But this fear exists largely when looking at business and OHS through a legal compliance perspective. Breaking down Negligence to a concept that many more people understand – Neglect – may help some better accept their accountability for safe and healthy workplaces.

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What is needed is a discussion of the “safe system of business”

By the time you read this, one of Australia’s States may have Industrial Manslaughter laws. One sad part of all of the IM argy-bargy is that it has focused on the penalty of going to jail rather than on the enhancement of occupational health and safety (OHS) which can prevent harm. Part of this seems to be because people are uncertain how to talk about OHS. For instance, some arguing against IM laws have started talking about making these laws fair. But fair to who?

Recently the Australian Industry Group released a media statement titled “Industrial manslaughter legislation must be fair“. Firstly, although the IM Bill is a piece of legislation, it is not an Act or Regulation in itself. It is an amendment to the existing OHS Act. But this Act and its Duties hardly gets discussed in the current debate, which is a bit curious but convenient.

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Paper provides historical context to OHS laws

Barry Naismith of OHSIntros has provided excellent independent analysis of Victoria’s occupational health and safety (OHS) data for many years. His latest “Deaths at Work” report (available publicly for a limited time) includes a detailed discussion on the social context of Victoria’s proposed Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws.

But of more immediate interest is Naismith’s longitudinal analysis. One of his graphs showing death statistics back to the commencement of Victoria’s modern-era OHS laws in 1985 supports the statement popular with politicians that the rate of work-related deaths is declining over that time but Naismith points out that the five-year trend to 2018 is reversed and that this is part of the justification for the IM Laws.

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Cocky on Industrial Manslaughter and confident on OHS of vehicles

Even before the Victorian Parliament (maybe) passes the Industrial Manslaughter amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Premier Daniel Andrews is promising new, targeted investigative resources. Even though Andrews acknowledged that the laws may not pass, he seems super-confident and we know that politics is littered with cases of over-confidence.

If the opposition Liberal/National Party coalition wanted to seriously embarrass the Premier and this Labor Government, it could nobble the changes in the Legislative Council in a move that would be popular with the major business organisations, agricultural industry groups and farmers.

Many of the issues Andrews’ raised at the Victorian Labor Party conference on 16 November 2019 make a lot of sense, but why jeopardise a crucial vote on the Industrial Manslaughter laws? And how will he bring commercial vehicles into the occupational health and safety statistics, as he has promised?

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