Safety is the highest priority. Really?

Workplace safety can have a bizarre logic.  A recent example can be seen in the continuing controversy about the deaths of two workers on a construction site in Western Australia.

In November 2015 two workers Joe McDermott and Gerard Bradley were crushed to death by a concrete slab while on a break at a Jaxon Construction site in East Perth. The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) concerns about the site have been discussed on ABC television last week and on the union’s social media. WorkSafe WA is investigating.

Some of the statements by Kim Richardson, the construction director of the Master Builders Association of Western Australia (MBAWA) seem ill-timed but reflect many of the perspectives held by employers towards occupational health and safety (OHS).

Shortly after the the incident Richardson stated that

“All workers have the right to go to work and have the expectation and the right to come home safely,…. That did not happen.

There’s been a move to have a tremendous amount of paperwork where people will tick boxes to say they have a safe system in place. But that doesn’t guarantee safe systems of work. The way the work is performed is where the focus needs to be.”

Richardson’s complaints seem to be that

  • occupational health and safety has too much paperwork
  • the paperwork misrepresents the level of safety at the workplace
  • greater attention should be given to how work is performed.

Few OHS professionals in Australia would argue these points but there are some uncomfortable implications in these complaints.

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Green Building can generate OHS returns

Recently an article from an international real estate and investment company stated:

“Marrying health and wellness with design, the WELL Building Standard is catching on fast in the West, but the trend is just starting to take off in Asia.”

This statement is debatable but the recent concern over cheap, flammable cladding in high-rise buildings in Australia should speed up the attention on Safety in Design principles that underpin such initiatives. Continue reading “Green Building can generate OHS returns”

A possible change in approach on quad bike safety

The Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) is an integral stakeholder in the improvement in the safety performance of quad bikes. However, some of its past strategies have been belligerent, divisive and have limited the safety debate.  There are hints that the FCAI’s communication strategy has changed and this can only be for the better.

On October 1, 2015, FCAI issued a media release that was a gentle questioning of the Star Safety Rating program recently advocated by quad bike safety advocates and researchers.  The FCAI says that the research on which the rating system is based

“…does not correlate with real world performance is premature and needs to be further explored.”

Continue reading “A possible change in approach on quad bike safety”

Beware the power of words

Occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals are being encouraged to think differently about safety and to focus on the positives instead of the failures, the leads instead of the lags. This needs to be supported by how we describe workplace incidents and in this context the profession can learn from one aspect of the debate on family violence in which Australia is currently engaged.

One example is available in this article from Women’s Agenda.  In it Editor Jane Gilmore writes about how the death of a women, murdered by a man, was described poorly by a newspaper.  The headline removes the perpetrator from the action. Continue reading “Beware the power of words”

Australia’s Safe Work Month launched

The CEO of Safe Work Australia, Michelle Baxter, has launched National Safe Work Month in a video address this morning. This speech is the first of many online Virtual Safety Seminars for 2015. The seminar program is much expanded since last year’s inaugural attempt and a recent discussion on this program’s development is available here. The videos will be good additions to the Australian body of knowledge on workplace safety.

This video illustrates some of the challenges in producing videos and webinars. The lack of commonly used acronyms for workplace safety  such as OHS or WHS can disturb the vocal flow by requiring formal and clear speech. The use of an autocue or teleprompter is also a skill that requires practice, as UK politician Jeremy Corbyn has recently acknowledged.

Continue reading “Australia’s Safe Work Month launched”

Front page drug testing article is marketing

An article last week touched briefly on the issue of the effect of synthetic drugs in the workplace in the context of drug and alcohol testing.  The Australian newspaper on 28 September 2015 contained a front page article (paywalled) about mining company concerns over synthetic drugs at work, however it is an article that deserves greater analysis before anyone considers this as part of an evidence base as it is creatively constructed and relies on statements from a toxicologist working for drug testing laboratory. Continue reading “Front page drug testing article is marketing”

Hierarchy of Control podcast

It always surprises me when clients and colleagues ignore the Hierarchy of Controls when deciding what control measures to introduce.  Recently Oregon’s OSHA released a podcast about the Hierarchy of Controls which shares some of my concerns.

It was concerning that the podcast stated that some hierarchies place Administrative Controls on the same level as Engineering Controls and that some consider fall protection devices as Engineering Controls due the engineering of the anchor point (a dubious engineering control as this blog has discussed previously).

Below are several quotes from the 4 minute podcast Michael Wood of Oregon OSHA.

“A control that fully eliminates the hazard is always preferred to one that does not.”

“The hierarchy improves the control’s reliability.”

“The hierarchy of control recognises that perfection in human performance can not be attained.”

This short podcast is a good quick reminder to occupational health and safety professionals but could also be discussion catalyst on basic hazard management.

Kevin Jones

Do you make any money from this blog?

Recently there have been several local Australian kerfuffles about freelance writing.  I have experienced similar issues and many readers I meet ask me this question – “do you make money from the SafetyAtWorkBlog?”

The short answer is “No”.  But this is too simple.  Readers do not pay me for access and there is no advertising on the blog. However, what the SafetyAtWorkBlog has done has increased my professional profile in the Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) sector so that my consulting and writing has a higher value.

Last week a content provider contacted me to discuss me writing articles for them.  They read my blog articles and liked what they saw.  They offered a “word rate” of A$0.40 – a word rate is a rate that, for instance, would offer A$200.00 for a 500 word article. Such a word rate may have been legitimately offered twenty years ago but small business costs have increased enormously since then. Continue reading “Do you make any money from this blog?”

Workplace bullying report lost in the political frenzy

Earlier this year Victorian MP and Minister for Small Business, Adem Somyurek, was accused of bullying his Chief of Staff, Dimity Paul.  This week, Somyurek resigned from his Cabinet position but not without a press conference in which he stated that the issue was political payback and that his resignation is no admission of guilt.

As you can see from this very brief summary, party politics has infested this instance of workplace bullying, and to such an extent that the important and solid investigation report into the incident is being missed.  The reports are publicly available and deserve to be carefully considered rather than relying on some of the current media coverage. Continue reading “Workplace bullying report lost in the political frenzy”

Safe Work Australia is gearing up for National Safe Work Month

Last year, Safe Work Australia (SWA) gambled on a series of online videos and live events through National Safe Work Month in the form of Virtual Safety Seminars (VSS). VSS provided good online content that continues to be viewed but such a safety communication strategy should stand up to questioning, particularly if it arises from a Government agency.

One of the most important elements of any safety communication strategy is to attempt to measure its success.  The strategy may be aimed at raising awareness of an issue, providing information or promoting a service or product but the important part is to structure the strategy so that it can be measured and for that measurement to occur.  The OHS sector in Australia has a tradition of trying something because it is a good idea and then considering the effort to be a measure of success.  Too many strategies magnify awareness of an issue of which the community is already aware rather than developing a strategy for change, and of tangible change. In some ways the community’s tolerance for awareness over change is starting to wear thin.

With this in mind, SafetyAtWorkBlog posed some questions to Safe Work Australia: Continue reading “Safe Work Australia is gearing up for National Safe Work Month”