If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

The trade union movement has often been instrumental in affecting and sometimes creating government policy on occupational health and safety (OHS).  The latest generation of hazards – psychosocial – can be traced back to a survey late last century of workplace stress conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).  This week the ACTU released its survey into sexual harassment at work.

The current survey should not be seen as representative of any social group other than trade union members even though the survey was completed by 10,000 of them.  Also, this survey is far less likely to be as newsworthy as last century’s surveys as the agenda on workplace sexual harassment has already been established by reports from groups like Universities Australia and, especially, the current work by the Sexual Discrimination Commissioner and the Australian Human Rights Commission.  It is also likely to be covered, probably as a secondary issue, in the various mental health inquiries scheduled for 2019.

The ACTU survey provides additional information to our understanding of sexual harassment at work but certainly not the whole picture.

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Politics on display in final report of Australia’s Industrial Deaths inquiry

The Australian Senate inquiry into Industrial Deaths has released its findings in a report called “They never came home—the framework surrounding the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths in Australia“.  For those who have followed the inquiry, there are few surprises but the report presents big political challenges, particularly as a Federal Election must occur no later than May 2019.

It has been increasingly common for such Senate reports to include, not necessarily, a Minority Report, but an alternative perspective on some issues.  Sometimes these reports show dissent in the Committee but more often than not these are statements that are aimed

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The risks of having an OHS policy

If you ask a lawyer for advice about any issue related to occupational health and safety (OHS) their first piece of advice is likely to be “write a policy”.  There are good legal reasons for advocating a policy, but policies can also create major problems.  Policies are both a reflection of a workplace and the base on which improvements can be created.

Search for OHS policy guidance from the Victorian Government  and it takes you to a page that describes an OHS policy as

“Laws, regulations and compliance codes which set out the responsibilities of employers and workers to ensure that safety is maintained at work.”

NO it’s not.  The page also directs you to a WorkSafe page about insurance!

WorkSafe Tasmania

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Safety Leadership is a thing and not a person

For many years now workplace health and safety conferences have discussed Leadership and how it is vital to the establishment of appropriate safety performance and, often, the establishment of a safety culture.  NSCA Foundation’s SafetyCONNECT conference was no different in some ways but there was a major concession in the last couple of the minutes of the conference.

Many presenters implied, or stated, that Leadership is a critical element of successful safety management.  They also said that safety starts from the top.  It is not unreasonable to interpret these statements as meaning that Leadership is embodied in the Chief Executive Officer, Senior Executive or Director and that safety trickles down through the management structures like neoliberal nonsense.

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