Work-related elements for social change

It is almost impossible for occupational health and safety (OHS) people to stop looking at the world through the risk assessment parameters and hierarchies with which they work every day. The Hierarchy of Control could be applied to the COVID19 pandemic with the important lesson that the elimination of a hazard does not only come from the right purchase but could require months and months of a combination of Administrative Controls, Personal Protective Equipment, and perseverance. This impossibility should not be something that makes OHS professionals shy. It should be embraced and expanded, where possible, beyond the bounds of workplace organisations to societal design and change.

Michael Quinlan has recently written about a different investigative process that could be directly applied to the management of disasters, including COVID19. His research on Ten Pathways to Death and Disaster has been popping up in conferences, books and public speaking, including the OHS advocacy of Dr Gerry Ayers of the CFMEU, and has rarely been more timely.

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More data means a stronger case for change in workplace health and safety

SafetyAtWorkBlog tries to include links to original data and reports wherever possible. Last week the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released its 2020 data insights report. There is a lot in it, and some relates to workplace risks. Perhaps the most useful section is the chapter of Social Determinants of Health (SDH). For those readers for whom this is a new concept, this chapter is obligatory reading.

SDH is crucial to understanding how occupational health and safety (OHS) risks fit with non-work, or social, activities, government policy decisions and economic pressures. The beauty of the AIHW take on SDH is that it based on Australian data.

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Building an honest state of knowledge about suicide

Bizarre dark painting

The apparent suicide of former Australian Football player, Shane Tuck, last week has again sparked discussion in the media and the community about suicide. The Victorian Coroner, John Cain, believes that how we talk about suicide needs a review. As workplace and work-related suicides also occur, the discussion is relevant to occupational health and safety (OHS).

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Old v New, or is it just Thinking?

Sacunas Old v New

Business management, including safety management, talks about “step changes”, new paradigms and a lot of jargon.  Part of the use of this language is an attempt to manage progress and change in small comprehensible chunks.  But it can also expose business owners to short-term fads, giving rise to frustration and cynicism about occupational health and safety (OHS).

One example of the step change mindset was on display several years ago in LinkedIn where the image above was posted, sadly, with no context. The before/after structure of this graphic is often used in the management of workplace health and safety.

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Two steps forward, one backward

The latest media release from the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) shows a remarkable maturity and a newfound ability to be inclusive and topical.

The AIHS, in conjunction with several other occupational health and safety (OHS) related organisations, developed and released an important guidance on respiratory protection masks for the work environment. Not only is this super topical but the effort has the support of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), an organisation that, historically, has been reluctant to support OHS initiatives from outside trade union resources.

The primary purpose of the media release is to push the Federal Government for “the urgent establishment of a register for approved respirators (aka face masks)”, but this may be too simplistic and too narrow a focus especially when the issue of face masks is a critical part of the Governments’ plans to “reopen” the economy.

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