Why are farms still unsafe?

The start of School Holidays is always a good time to issue reminders of the risks associated with farms, beaches and wherever holidaymakers go. The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF), recently reinvigorated in its occupational health and safety (OHS) efforts, has released a new safety booklet – “Child Safety on Farms – A practical guide for farming parents“. However, the coverage of this guide by the ABC is a little loose.

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Major omissions from business perspective before the Jobs and Skills Summit

Next month the Australian government is conducting a “Jobs and Skills Summit“. Such consultative events have been held every so often for decades but usually after a new government is sworn in and after the previous one was in power for too long or lost its way. Such summits are seen as ways of reconnecting with disaffected and disempowered industry associations, trade unions and other organisations with the ear of the incoming government.

One of the most vocal industry associations is the Business Council of Australia. The BCA has existed since 1983. Its Wikipedia entry lists its large corporate membership, providing context to its policies and positions. On August 15 2022, its CEO Jennifer Westacott had an opinion piece, “What a Jobs Summit ‘win’ would look like“, published in the Australian Financial Review, but with a different headline. Workplace safety was mentioned in passing but is hiding in the subtext elsewhere.

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Expand “Safety Differently” to “Work Differently”

Occupational health and safety is as much at risk of hypocrisy as any other business element. Perhaps moreso as it is full of trite cliches. Many people find it easier to identify hypocrisy when it is shown by others and Australian media company SBS provided an example recently.

According to an article in The Age newspaper on June 26, 2002 (not yet available online, image below), SBS had commissioned an independent production company, Fell Swoop Pictures, to produce a series about the exploitation of food delivery gig workers. This is a legitimate topic for depiction, especially after five food delivery workers were killed in Australia recently over a short period of time. The income levels of this type of worker have been a feature of many of the concerns raised by trade unions and others, and that has been highlighted in several formal inquiries into the industry sector.

Sadly Fell Swoop Pictures promoted the opportunity to be an Extra in a series about exploitation without the Extras being paid!!

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OHS Communication must be effective

Dr Kelly Jaunzems is writing her thesis on how we communicate on occupational health and safety issues. Her thesis has been embargoed for a few more years, but she released some information in March 2022. Dr Jaunzems said:

“Working safely depends upon the successful sending and receiving of relevant information, in accessible, easy to read formats.  If that information is not received, not understood, misunderstood, not implemented or actioned, then an organisation has not complied with the legislation.  And most importantly, ineffective OSH communication jeopardises workers safety…”

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How will people know you’ve won a safety award?

Modern-day events such as conferences, seminars and awards nights rely on social media strategies to maximise the value of the event and the communication opportunities they afford. This year the WorkSafe Victoria Awards night seems to have applied a thin social media strategy even though it has important stories to tell.

Usually, signs, brochures, information booklets and even tables mention the social media hashtag that the event organisers want the audience to use to promote and record the event. This year WorkSafe Victoria mentioned #WSAwards21 at the night’s start and never again. The hashtag was nowhere to be seen. This may be a major factor in the very low Twitter activity.

As of the time of writing, Twitter had 29 mentions of the #WSAwards21 hashtag, most posted by WorkSafe itself. I tweeted five of them. The audience members or finalists have tweeted only three times.

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Confrontation with PM involves workers’ compensation

Last week Australian media covered a confrontation between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and a pensioner, Ray, in Newcastle. Most of the coverage focused on Ray’s criticism of the commitments of the Morrison Government to support and reward those citizens willing to “have go”. The full 5-minute video provides a much better context to the man’s complaints than do the short edits on most media bulletins. That context seems to include concerns about workers’ compensation and the processes of the Dust and Diseases Board.

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A mouse that is trying to roar

Robert Gottliebsen continues to support the campaign led by Self-Employed Australia’s Ken Phillips, to have senior members of the Victorian government prosecuted for breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act. However, his arguments are becoming weaker.

On February 13 2022, in his column in The Australian (paywalled), Gottliebsen made big claims for Phillips’ legal action, which is being crowdfunded and advised by anonymous (but “some of Australia’s top OHS”) lawyers. He concluded his latest article saying:

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