The fluctuating grey zone of compliance

The occupational health and safety (OHS) profession operates within the legislative context of “so far as is reasonably practicable“, that band of compliance, that non-prescriptive, performance-based flexibility offered to employers to encourage them to provide safe and healthy workplaces. It could be said that OHS was easier forty years ago because the compliance band was thinner, and in some cases, compliance was determined by specialist OHS inspectors on the day of the visit.

Today, that compliance band fluctuates and can be affected by community values and expectations, as shown in a recent discussion about sexual harassment at Australia’s Fair Work Commission.

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Is Business really a punching bag?

Occupational health and safety (OHS) cannot afford to be anti-business. No business = no jobs = no need for OHS. And business groups should not be anti-OHS, yet it often feels that they are. A recent opinion piece by Bran Black of the Business Council of Australia argues that the success of businesses in Australia is central the economy. This is typical of the type of articles that appear in the business-friendly media as part of “soft” lobbying of the federal government prior to the May Budget.

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Industrial Manslaughter fears

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has published an article about concerns by West Australian local governments with exposure to prosecution for Industrial Manslaughter under WA’s work health and safety legislation. The concerns seem wellfounded, but the article lacks a social and moral context.

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From troublemaking to a social movement on OHS

It is unlikely that the book “Troublemaking – Why You Should Organise Your Workplace” will be read by anyone outside its intended audience – trade union members and organisers. However, it should be. Organising people into protests, pressure groups, lobbyists or broader sociopolitical movements is not owned by the trade unions, although they have mastered some of the techniques.

It is possible to dip into this book for information on mobilising workers independently of trade union structures but not ideology. This approach may be particularly useful for occupational health and safety (OHS) practitioners who want to create a movement within a company, industry, or community that argues for improved workplace health and safety and to build a collaborative culture of consultation, dialogue and joint decision-making.

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Let’s talk about work-related suicide

Occupational health and safety (OHS) has been fairly successful in reducing the frequency and numbers of traumatic workplace injuries largely because such injuries cannot be hidden or may occur in front of others and increasingly on video. It is a sad reality that work-related deaths generate change and progress. Sometimes the more deaths, the more significant that change or, the quicker that change occurs. However, it is even sadder that change often requires a death.

Note: this article discusses suicide.

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A curious Worksafe awards night of omissions and shadows

If I was asked to describe last week’s awards night conducted by WorkSafe Victoria, it would be curious. This article does not question the legitimacy of the award winners and finalists: all deserve the accolades and the glory. In fact, there perhaps should have been more of them.

The atmosphere of the event was relatively muted. There were no tables of loud finalists from previous years, but the tables associated with the night’s final award, the Health and Safety Representative (HSR) of the Year, were rowdy at the end. The Master of Ceremonies was a last-minute replacement and made little attempt to entertain. Her job was to read the script and announce the winners, and she was good at that, but there was no lively personality as in previous years, no one to warm up the crowd.

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More management myths busted

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is rife with ideas that refuse to die even though they are not supported by evidence. OHS management is dominated by a belief that Executive Leadership is either the answer or the first place to start change. Leadership and OHS are dangerously intertwined. Perhaps an assessment of Zombie Leadership is required. Some recent Australian research will help.

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