This week Australia has been experiencing a safety roadshow built around the Deepwater Horizon movie and two guest speakers. The afternoon sessions have been well attended and the discussion fruitful but does the film improve the viewers’ understanding of safety or misrepresent it?
Over the last 9 years SafetyAtWorkBlog has established a solid presence in the OHS online world. It has gained international notice and awards and has a voice much larger than its pool of subscribers and followers. Occupational health and safety needed voices after years (decades?) of OHS professionals being overly cautious about expressing their well-informed opinions and creating debates and, sometimes, controversy.
Now it is time for the SafetyAtWorkBlog to take the next step in its sustainability.
For the SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue to grow, a subscription model will be introduced from February 4 2017. For an annual subscription, followers will be able to access exclusive safety articles and interviews. Occasionally articles will be published for free but over 90% of content will be available only to subscribers. Continue reading “Important changes to SafetyAtWorkBlog”
As 2016 comes to a close, I have dipped into the statistics and found the two SafetyAtWorkBlog articles that had the highest readership in 2016 were articles discussing the thoughts of Michael Tooma and Andrew Hopkins. Both of the articles were challenging – one of the existence or relevance of safety culture and the other about how occupational health and safety (OHS) is desperate for a change and struggling to start that change.
The statistics should not be surprising as both Tooma and Hopkins have a high recognition rate in the Australian OHS field and both have and international context – Hopkins through his analysis of industrial disasters and Tooma through his “safety differently” world tour. Continue reading “SafetyAtWorkBlog’s top two articles for 2016”
The media is full of lists of Christmas reading, usually in order to sell books. Below is a selection of the safety-related books that are in my Summer reading pile. (No, I am not going to list the Batman comics or Star Trek books. That would be embarrassing.)
I first met Robert Sams at a book launch of one of the Rob Long’s books. Sams’ approach to risk has some similarity to Long’s, which is acknowledged in the Forewards, but those who develop or apply a theory are often more interesting than those who created the theory. The the format of the book is a “reflective journal” also makes this nook more intriguing. It is part diary, part blog, part journal but above all it is a journey of learning with the occasional epiphany. Continue reading “SafetyAtWorkBlog’s Christmas reading list”
On November 15, 2016, the NSCA Foundation (NSCAF) and Westwick-Farrow Media (WFM) announced a new publishing deal for one of Australia’s few remaining occupational health and safety (OHS) publications, National Safety. The media release was very upbeat about the change but the reality is that Australian OHS professionals and business operators will lose a free, hard-copy source of safety information, Safety Solutions.
National Safety magazine is a good magazine that, although long promoted as the journal of the NSCA Foundation, has a good reputation for independent and informative OHS articles and seems to have had a loyal readership amongst OHS professionals. There had been no hint that the magazine was “in trouble” or that a change was warranted. Safety Solutions has more of an advertorial approach and seems to appeal more to the small business owner and OHS professional who is more focused on the manufacturing industry sector. The magazine has existed since 2002 and has been a consistent presence. Continue reading “Another safety magazine bites the dust”
The Spring 2016 edition of National Safety magazine includes a cover story on leadership written by me. In it John Lacey insists that safety leadership begins at the top. This position is supported by many business and occupational health and safety (OHS) advocates but this seems to me to be based on a misunderstanding of leadership.
In response to a question about leadership in small- to medium-sized businesses, Lacey said that leadership “applies to all”:
“[Leadership] is not different but how to apply it will be different. The start must be from the top down. The basic values, behaviours, knowledge and systems will be defined by the organisation no matter how large or small it is.”
This is remarkably like safety culture and my response is that leadership can be displayed by anyone at any level of a company or society and can manifest at any organisational level. The fact is that it is easier to sell a commodified leadership to executives as they are expected to show leadership in times of crisis or stockmarket uncertainty and most of us translate that into leadership of safety.
Leadership, as with most elements of OHS, takes time and effort – sometimes over generations. This is particularly so with anything concerning corporations that are wary of change unless that change supports profit and shareholder returns. (I would argue safety increases profits and company value but this is an argument than struggles for traction)
The most abused aphorism used to justify this focus on executive leadership is that “a fish rots from the head down”. Nonsense. As this website states, it is the guts of a fish that rots first.
The attention given to senior executive leadership is an organisational echo of the economic trickle-down theory which has been roundly dismissed as flawed and, in some instances, has contributed to increasing socio-economic inequality.
Lacey acknowledges that anybody within an organisation can lead although leadership starts from the top. He supports my contention that leadership occurs at all levels of a business and that actions show leadership and safety, probably, more effectively and cheaper than any training session. Lacey says
“…even the gesture of picking-up litter or wearing the correct [personal protective equipment] in front of others in the work team can be seen as a form of leadership. Leading by example is an old but such a true saying.”
These actions are the best way of improving workplace safety and showing leadership, and for the least cost. Safety should be improved by actions rather than PowerPoint.
[Note: please support National Safety magazine if you can. It is not available online and only through subscription but it is one of the few hard copy OHS magazines left in Australia and one of the few, if not the last, that actually pays its writers (not as much as we’d like but that’s the continuous battle of the freelance writer). This stance is keeping advertorials at bay and gives National Safety an integrity that is often missing in other safety publications]
As Australia’s Safe Work Month closes, the media is focussed on the four fatalities at Dreamworld theme park in Queensland. That situation is complicated as, although the incident is being investigated partly under Work Health and Safety laws, the decedents were visitors to the workplace. On the other side of the continent in Perth, prior…
Late yesterday four adults were killed on the Thunder River Rapids ride at the Dreamworld theme park in Queensland Australia. Investigations are ongoing and it was only recently that the names of some of the victims were released. The first few days after any fatality are confusing as new information is uncovered, old concerns are voiced and our sympathies for the dead expressed. However there are usually some comments that are unhelpful, and this morning was no exception.
ABC Radio’s AM program led with a report called “Union expresses concerns to Queensland safety regulator about Dreamworld rides”. In the report Ben Swan, Queensland Secretary of the Australian Workers Union says that the union raised safety and maintenance concerns with the company running DreamWorld, Ardent Leisure Group, earlier this year. Swan said that the concerns involved maintenance regimes and equipment but did not specify that Thunder River Rapids was part of those concerns.
Swan was at pains to not distract people from the incident investigation yet his readiness to be interviewed did just that. The union could have made its point about past safety concerns by pledging to cooperate with official investigations by the Coroner and Work Health and Safety Queensland.
Lawyer, Sugath Wijedoru was interviewed by AM over an incident at the theme park in April 2016 that involved his client. The incident involved a different ride and different circumstances.
Swan’s and Wijedoru’s comments and the structure of the AM report, imply that there was a systemic OHS problem with the theme park’s administration but how does this help the investigation less than a day after the deaths? Does this add to the grief and trauma of the relatives who have only just been informed of the deaths, or provide comfort? DreamWorld may have systemic safety management problems but identifying this is the role of the investigators.
The information that Swan, Wijedoru and others have about the Thunder River Rapids ride and Dream World’s OHS practices generally is sure to be of interest to the investigators, regulators and Courts but did they need to comment within 24 hours of the tragedies? Who did this help?
The report also end with the reporter Katherine Gregory reminding the listener that
“there is no national regulator for theme parks in Australia. Instead it is managed by each jurisdiction.”
The implication is that there should be one. Why? The only National OHS regulator Australia has is Comcare and that only covers a selection of workplaces and industries. The fact is that Australia has no national regulator of workplace safety in the manner of other countries. OHS is almost always dealt with by the States which makes the concluding comments curious and unnecessary.
Mainstream media feels the need to report news and the deaths of four people on an amusement ride is certainly news but does it need to encourage speculation about incident causes at the time that the company is trying to work out what happened and address the concerns of its workers, various investigators are only just getting the level of access to the scene they need, and relatives are finding out why some of their family are not coming home?
October is National Safety Month in Australia and episode 5 of the Cabbage Salad and Safety podcast discusses a range of topics to mirror the diversity of National Safety Month.
Siobhan Flores-Walsh and myself talk about:
- Gender in Safety
- Mental Health
- Simple Safety vs Complex Safety
- Marketing and social media
The Gender in Safety conversation is one that I intend to expand upon in the coming weeks and is useful to notion relation to the increasing number of “women in safety”- type events.
The second session of the SIA National Convention is flatter than the the first, not because it is not interesting but because it is providing us with the social context for occupational health and safety (OHS) rather than challenging the OHS profession.
Bernard Salt is a very high profile demographer whose job is almost entirely about providing social context to whatever we do. He mentioned OHS specifically only four times and then primarily to do with driving trucks but the age data Salt presented shows the need for improvement in the health and wellbeing of the workforce so that quality of life can extend in line with the extended period of our lives.
Peter Gahan (pictured right, speaking)of the Centre of Workplace Leadership is a regular speaker at the Safety Institute of Australia’s conferences. His outline reflects the theme of this conference by disrupting our sense of security and career.
The challenge comes from how we respond to this unease. If we curl up on the couch to binge watch a show, the career is over. We need to look for the opportunities that the disruption offers but this may require us to reassess, if not throw out, the foundations of our profession or the dreams on which we chose our career.
Richard Coleman is well known in the Australian OHS profession through his prominent safety career. His attraction as a conference speaker was on display because he was able to adjust his presentation to accommodate the examples and context that previous speakers addressed. Coleman focused on the digital disruption, particularly as it affects blue collar occupations. He believes that some of these jobs will go within the next five years.
Coleman’s focus on digital disruption provided a great summary of the OHS application of augmented reality and wearable technology. The latter has the best opportunity for safety improvement, particularly in the area of manual handling. Sensor technology can provide better levels of information and in real time that allows immediate interventions at times of great risk.
What these speakers and the panel are all about is to think creatively and think big. Fantasise about your job and the tasks you do now and whether they will exist in ten years and how you can change them now to prepare for the future. If your job leads to a dead-end, change the job. It seems easier to do this now, than ever before