Revealing podcast on asbestos in Australia

On 15 October 2009, Matt Peacock, a journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and author of a new book on asbestos and the James Hardie company, “Killer Company: James Hardie Exposed” spoke publicly at Trades Hall in Victoria.

Killer Company cover 001Peacock has allowed an edited version of his presentation to be used as a SafetyAtWork podcast which can be downloaded.  In the podcast he discusses the conduct of the James Hardie boss of several decades, John B Reid; the pervasive nature of asbestos throughout the Australian community; the surveillance of opponents by the company; the immoral public relations campaigns and, generally, the conduct of a corporation that knowingly sold a product that was toxic and harmful.

One blogger reviewed the book and said

“Killer Company” clearly shows that JH directors were criminally negligent and showed no humanity or compassion for their victims and no remorse for their crimes.

Peacock produced several reports on asbestos recently.  Video and transcripts of his reports can be accessed HERE.

Peacock has also been interviewed extensively about his book.  A video interview is available HERE

Kevin Jones

New approaches on OHS fines and penalties

At the moment Australian OHS professionals, lawyers and businesses are preparing submissions to the Government on the harmonisation of OHS laws.  One of the areas that the Government is seeking advice on is penalties.  The Discussion Paper asks the following

Q17. Are the range and levels of penalties proposed above appropriate, taking account of the levels set for breaches of duties of care by the WRMC?

Q18. What should the maximum penalty be for a contravention of the model regulations?

Q19. The intention is that all contraventions of the model Act be criminal offences. Is this appropriate or should some non-duty of care offences be subject to civil sanctions e.g. failure to display a list of HSRs at the workplace, offences relating to right of entry?

The amount of  any fixed financial penalty is not a big issue in my opinion.  There is an assumption that the threat of a large financial penalty imposed on one company will encourage other companies to improve safety.  Is anyone seriously saying that all of the financial penalties imposed over the decades are in some way responsible for an improving level of safety in workplaces?  The motivation to improve safety comes from elsewhere.

The threat of large financial penalties send companies to seek ways of insuring against having to pay a fine.  Often it is cheaper to pay an insurance premium on the slim chance of being prosecuted and fined.  I acknowledge that this has been a corporate and risk management approach primarily but there are cases where such options are being offered to small business.

Large financial penalties, such as the then record fine to Esso over its Longford gas explosion, are easily paid with little OHS improvement resulting from the fine.  It can be argued that the negative corporate exposure from the resulting Royal Commission, a reulting class action and the media coverage resulting from its unforgivable treatment of Jim Ward were stronger motivators for improvement.

In most Australian States, there is not a crime of industrial manslaughter.  This issue has faded from the political agenda but it remains very much alive in England.  On 27 October 2009, the Sentencing Guidelines Council wrote the following:

“Companies and organisations that cause death through gross breaches of care should face punitive and significant fines, a consultation guideline published by the Sentencing Guidelines Council proposes today.

Fines for organisations found guilty of the new offence of corporate manslaughter may be measured in millions of pounds and should seldom be below £500,000.

The new sanction of Publicity Orders forcing companies and organisations to make a statement about their conviction and fine introduced under the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act should be imposed in virtually all cases.

The consultation guideline proposes that the publicity should be designed to ensure that the conviction becomes known to shareholders and customers in the case of companies and to local people in the case of public bodies, such as local authorities, hospital trusts and police forces.  Organisations may be made to put a statement on their websites.”

The Council recommends a minimum financial penalty and a publicity order that has teeth. More on the publicity order is below.

Council member Lord Justice Anthony Hughes clearly states the purpose of financial penalties and it is not preventative.  He said in a media statement

“Fines cannot and do not attempt to value a human life – compensation will be payable separately in these cases.  The fine is designed to punish and these are serious offences so the fines imposed should be punitive and significant to reflect that.”

Penalties as a Percentage of Turnover

Hughes says that the Council rejected a Sentencing Advisory Panel proposal that I believe should be floated in the current debate on penalties in Australia, even though it is likely to be similarly rejected.

The Panel recommended the following

“In order to achieve an equal economic impact on offending organisations of different sizes, the proposed starting points and ranges for offences of corporate manslaughter are expressed as percentages of the offending organisation’s average annual turnover during the three years prior to sentencing.  The relevant turnover is that of the company convicted of the offence or, where the offending organisation is a holding company, the consolidated turnover of the group of companies of which it is the holding company.”

Here is the penalty table

Manslaughter table

Lawyers argue extensively about the use of manslaughter in relation to deaths in workplace but the public jumps across the legalese by repeatedly asking how the death of their loved one is not manslaughter when the actions of a director or company led directly to the death?  No level of legal explanation is going to counter this need for accountability, some would say revenge.

Similarly the penalty rate listed in the table above is easier for the public to understand conceptually compared to a judge’s or lawyer’s explanation of why a financial penalty for a workplace death was less than the maximum.

Sentencing options are complex and SafetyAtWorkBlog has no legal contributors but on 30 October 2009 within a public discussion period on national OHS laws and at the end of Safe Work Australia Week, it seem thats penalties imposed from a percentage of turnover may be an attractive concept to many safety advocates and one that needs to be considered in the Australian context.

Publicity Orders

On the issue of publicity orders, many Australian jurisdictions have had this option for a while.  Indeed, the issue of enforceable undertakings is getting a broader hearing after some of the recent actions by Comcare against John  Holland Group and others.

It is always important to look at the most recent actions and decisions in OHS law and regulation from outside one’s own jurisdiction so that innovations are not overlooked.  It seems that the Sentencing Advisory Panel has looked at lots of  jurisdictions in making the following requirements.

The Sentencing Advisory Panel listed specific requirements of a publicity order to be applied within a specified timeframe:

  • a quarter-page advertisement in a local or regional newspaper, in the case of an organisation operating in one area; or
  • an eighth-page advertisement in three specified national daily newspapers, in the case of an organisation operating nationally; and
  • an eighth-page notice in a relevant trade publication; and
  • a prominent notice in the organisation’s annual report (also in electronic format where applicable); and
  • where applicable, a notice on the homepage of the organisation’s website for a minimum period of three months.

The panel also closed a possible (out) for offending companies.

” The making of a publicity order does not justify a reduction in the level of fine imposed on an organisation for an offence of corporate manslaughter.”

The ads on home pages, local newspapers and trade publications (if there are any) seems very reasonable but the media option that may be most influential is the inclusion in the company’s annual report.  Acknowledging a workplace death and expressing regret in an annual report is admirable but “a prominent notice in the organisation’s annual report” goes straight to the shareholders who often have the ear of the corporation.  Just look at the influence being applied by them at the moment on executive salaries.

Now is the right time for Australia to consider alternative OHS penalty options.

Kevin Jones

Safe Work Australia Week podcast

Today, 1,500 union health and safety representatives attended a one-day seminar in Melbourne concerning occupational health and safety.  The seminars were supported by a range of information booths on issues from support on workplace death, legal advice, superannuation and individual union services.

Kevin Jones, the editor of SafetyAtWorkBlog took the opportunity to chat with a couple of people on the booths about OHS generally and what their thoughts were on workplace safety.

The latest SafetyAtWork Podcast includes discussions with the Asbestos Information and Support Services, the AMWU and TWU.

The podcast can be downloaded HERE

Using OHS images

“A picture is worth a thousand words” rings as true for OH&S material as anywhere else. But it’s also true that using images ineffectively or including bad quality ones can detract from the quality of what you’re trying to achieve.

I ain’t no graphic designer or expert photographer, but I’ve spent a bit of time trying to pay attention to what works when using images and how to improve the quality of photographs I use in reports and the like.   This article is about the stuff I’ve learnt.

I use a few “rules” on image used in reports or any other OH&S documentation.  Here are me main ones:

  1. An image has to do work. If it’s not informing the reader I don’t use one. That is, images just to make a report pretty isn’t much chop.
  2. Make the image as big as it needs to be to inform the reader.  I’d rather have a page taken up with one image and a bit of supporting text vs. squeeze in an image that is so small the viewer has trouble working out what is depicted in the image.
  3. Use images to illustrate a piece of equipment that has a workplace-specific name.   I always defer to finding out and using the name a bit of equipment is commonly known as in the workplace.   But I recognise that it can be a mistake to assume that everyone in the workplace knows the commonly used name.   A photo of it puts the identification beyond doubt.
  4. Don’t muck about with a paragraph to describe a location in the workplace.   A photo of a location (with the shot including a readily identifiable reference point) is much more efficient that a written description.
  5. Photos of recommended PPE (with necessary explanatory text) is much better than just relying on a written description.  One thing to be very aware of though is that if the PPE is also identified through colour coding (e.g. gas cartridges for respirators) be aware that colour rendition may vary with different computers.  Always back up a shot with a clear written description if colour coding is part of the way to identify a recommended piece of PPE.

And here is some stuff on gear and techniques I use. I’m well short of being an expert photographer, but I do enjoy it as a hobby.

My two main bits of gear are a digital video camera (Sony handycam) and a digital SLR (a Canon 40D that I love to bits).

The video camera is obviously a useful tool when I want moving footage of a work process.  Comes into it’s own when putting together a wee movie and playing it back to a client to go over risk control options.  I run a Mac and iMovie is perfectly adequate for putting together movies.   Whack in some subtitles over a few frames as a prompt for hazards or risks and Bob’s ya uncle.  But the Sony has another handy use.

When the things I want to shoot don’t demand high quality images and I’m wanting to avoid stopping during an inspection to take notes, I use the vid camera to shoot and describe the issues or location via voice.   That is, the camera is used to capture images and to take dictation on the issues. Trick with that is to keep camera movements slow.   Next step is back at the desk. Download the movie to iMovie.   Take any notes needed from the audio track and then take still grabs from the movie clips.  The still grabs from the movie are what make it important to keep movement of the camera slow and steady.  Too fast and still grabs will be blurred.

My Sony handycam is about 6 years old.   It doesn’t have a still shot option. More modern ones do.  That can be a substitute for lifting still grabs off the actual moving footage of course.

For high quality images, or in situations where I can’t expect good lighting I use the Canon 40D with a relatively small focal length range in the zoom lens fitted to it (24mm to 85mm).  The “point and shoot” digital still cameras obviously can produce wonderful quality images.  But it was a work gig that revealed their weaknesses.

I was at a workplace a few hours drive from home and the manager was accompanying me during the inspection and photo shoot.   I had my partner’s very good “point and shoot”.

Every shot had to count.   There were no options for a repeat visit.  Plus I felt I had to shoot quickly, just by virtue of having the manager there; didn’t want him to be wasting time.   The point-and-shoot was too slow to manually over-ride auto shots. And I often needed to do that to make sure lighting or details I needed were what I wanted.

The higher end digital still cameras are better designed and laid out to allow quick manual over-ride, or at very least allowing manual setting of critical settings like “film” speed and depth of field.

And here are some simple tips on how to improve the quality of photographs, particularly in the context of how to get good control over what information you’re trying to convey in the shot.   I’ve included some “f’rinstances” to illustrate the tips.

In OH&S World we’re mainly shooting “documentary” images.   We are after objective informative images.   This is much harder to do well than it might seem.   Our wonderful eyes and brains do a huge amount of work to make what we want to see clearer.   It’s important to appreciate the camera doesn’t do that. What it sees you get.  Practice shooting objectively. A good practice thing is to crawl around your car and shoot something you want to concentrate on.   Check the shots and see how simply pointing and shooting will often miss the key bits of information.   I try and constantly remind myself that a photo is like a good bit of writing.   I ask myself, what is the critical bit of information in the scene I’m looking at, and how can I make sure that bit is a feature of the shot?

This is where the trend to make us camera buyers believe we can have a camera make a clever shot is a bit of a deception.  It’s important to understand the core principles like depth of field, rules of composition and proper use of lighting to make sure a shot conveys the information you want it to.  That is, all the traditional skills in photography are important.

Here are some examples of what I’m on about.  The examples are hand-held shots of bits of me car. I used my Canon 40D to take the shots in various modes, including full auto.

“When you think you’re close enough, take a step forward”.

Can’t remember where I read this tip about how important it is to get close to the important feature of your shot; it’s a beauty to keep in mind every time you’re composing a shot.   It’s also a tip that reminds us that our brains can trick us into thinking we have nailed the important feature.  Our brains tell us, “Good, that looks clear”, and when we look at the shot later we often find the important feature is much less prominent than we originally thought when he pushed the shutter button.   What’s in the frame is what really matters and bigger is better.

Shocker top - wide viewShocker top - close up

Let’s say we are interested in the type and quality of the top anchor point of a shock absorber.   The shot on the left shows it’s still there, but not much more.   Zooming in with control over focus point makes the key information bold.  Notice how this also throws bits around the main feature go out of focus; a good way to make your main subject even more prominent.   This business of what is or isn’t in focus in front and behind the focus point is called “depth of field”, it’s an important photographic principle to have a basic working knowledge about.  Your camera manual will have stuff on depth of field and there are plenty of web sources on how depth of field works. (The manual is that wee book you got with your camera.   You know, that thing you, like all of us, just scanned through when you first got your camera!)  I also plonked the close-up shot in a basic photo editor program (in this instance the bog-simple iPhoto, and straightened the original shot up to make it easier to view).  Having a basic digital photo editor and management program can be a real life-saver. Start with a simple one.  Once you get the hang of it, it’s likely you’ll see all the benefits and will be tempted to use more advanced ones like Adobe Lightroom or Aperture.  And be assured; even the pro quality ones are not that tricky to use.

Full auto shooting isn’t really that handy

It can be a temptation to have full auto shooting “rusted” in position on your camera photo mode dial.   Fine for the happy-snaps of barbies and parties, not so good for documentary type photography. Full auto mode is not your friend: the “P” mode is.  Lots of cameras have this priority mode as a selectable option; it allows you to manually adjust some of the most critical shooting controls like depth of field (via aperture control – also called “f-stops”) while leaving the camera to make it’s own decisions about other less important adjustments.

Muffler - autoMuffler - focus and AV control

Here is an example of how full auto can be a real pain. I’m up close to the muffler.   Let’s say our interest is in the general quality of the critical welds in front of the muffler. (PS: It’s a diesel, hence no catalytic converter.)   The shot on the left is with all guns blazing – full auto.   Notice how the flash creates distracting shadows and the auto selection of focus points mucks up the key information needed.   The shot on the right was done in “P” mode. I had control over focus, depth of field and whether I wanted to use flash or not.  (I’ll say more about use of flash in the next tip.)  With only a very small amount of knowledge I was able to quickly decide what settings to use and the result is a sharper depiction of the 2 front welds.   Many cameras have selectable spots in the viewfinder or viewing screen that locates the primary focus point or points.   This can be handy, but like full auto, the convenience can be a bit of a trap.  I find that at least half of the time when doing work shots (and even fun stuff) it’s better to focus manually. It allows me to compose the shot for maximum effect , a very important thing.  I can put the key feature where I want it in the viewfinder frame and decide what other things I need in the shot to make the shot do all the work I need it to do.   That is very tricky and time-consuming to do when the camera is making it’s best decision on what needs to be in focus.  A good habit is to look at each part of the scene separately; that applies whether you are peering into a conventional viewfinder (which I tend to prefer over using my LCD viewing screen) or looking at your larger LCD viewing screen.   By systematically looking all over the different bits of a framed scene we can be sure we don’t have irrelevant or distracting things in the frame before shooting.

Natural is best – flash with caution.

Natural light is always better than a light generated by a flash, unless you’re in a studio with total control over the light and colour effects.  A flash will tend to flatten out shapes, distort colour reproduction and mostly just look awful.  As a general rule, set your camera to flash off: it’s a good way to look to ways you can use other settings to make best use of naturally available light, and that includes shots in what may seem to be dark situations.

Cable boot - full autoCable boot - no flash high speed + compositionUni joint - flashUni joint - natural light

The top line of shots have the cable boot as the primary feature.  The shot top left is the full disaster.  Auto on, flashing blazing away, no real concern for composition.   The flash has slammed a huge shadow on the top part of the image, the colour of the boot is not natural (and a bit of reinforcement wire has found it’s way into frame, distracting a viewer).  The shot to it’s right was done in P mode.  I used a high ISO setting (the higher the ISO the more light the camera sensor absorbs, with big shots that will come with a degradation in detail.  For smaller sized shots that degradation is not very noticeable.)  In the absence of flash the cable boot is seen in its more natural colour.   No severe shadows also means the viewer is able to put the cable boot in context with the rest of the bits around it.   As an aside, notice how the top right shot is up in the upper third of the frame?   This exploits the weird principle of “thirds”.   It was discovered a long time ago that by dividing an image into thirds, vertically and horizontally, we generate natural points of interest. Don’t ask me why, it just is.   This is nice for arty-farty shots, but it’s also real good for documentary shots.   It means we have multiple points in a frame where the viewers eye will want to go to naturally.

The bottom 2 shots are focusing on the universal joint in front of a differential.  These are trying to show the “flattening” effect of a flash. Both shots are pretty much in focus.   But see how the left one, by filling all shadows detracts from the form of the universal joint?   If it’s important to depict the shape of something it will almost always be vital that you shoot without the flash.  A simple tip when in dark situations, apart from cranking up your ISO speed to shoot, is to exploit the nice thing that light travels in straight lines.  Depending on the size of the thing you’re trying to photograph of course, nothing more than a bit of reflector can direct some useful amount of light on your subject.   With the car bits topics I’ve used here, an A4 white sheet of paper on a clipboard would be all I needed to almost double the amount of available light.  None of the shots I’ve used were done using that technique but I think you get me drift. Experiment with it.   Grab a clipboard with an A4 white sheet on it (even with print on it, it will be better than nothing).   You’ll be surprised at how much extra light you can direct onto a subject with that simple reflector. Keep it as close to the subject as you can.

There is one less commonly known use of a flash that can be very handy.   That’s when shooting outside in daylight.  We can’t always control where we shoot from and that may mean that the thing we want to feature has the sun behind it.   If the thing you want to shoot is in shadow and you can get within the effective range of your flash (usually only about 3 or 4 metres in daylight) turn your flash on and check the shot.  This is called using “in-fill” flash.   With a bit of experimenting you’ll see that by keeping a good distance away from your subject the harsh flash light will disperse a bit and you’ll get a nice bit of light to lessen harsh shadows.

Well, that’s it.  To sum up the photography bit:

  • Semi-pro digital cameras give you more control over your shot, but a “point and shoot” can be made to work well – if you learn it’s abilities and experiment.
  • Closer and bigger is best with images.
  • Take control over depth of field, focus points and ISO speed as a bare minimum. It lets you make the important features of your shot stick out, and that means your image works harder to inform the viewer.
  • Your on-camera flash is more likely to ruin a shot when you are relatively close to your subject. However, using a flash outside in daylight can work in your favour when used as “in-fill” light.

Col Finnie
fini:OHS

SafetyAtWorkBlog becomes a LexisNexis top blog

On 26 October 2009, SafetyAtWorkBlog was informed that it has been considered “a LexisNexis Top 25 Blogs for Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Issues – 2009, in the Best International Blogs category”.

The site coordinator of LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation Law Center, Robin Kobayashi, provided this overview of the importance of the Top 25 Blogs:

The Top 25 Blogs contain some of the best writing out there on workers’ compensation and workplace issues in general.  They contain a wealth of information for the workers’ compensation community with timely news items, practical information, expert analysis, practice tips, frequent postings, and helpful links to other sites.

These blogsites also show us how workplace issues interact with politics and culture.  Moreover, they demonstrate how bloggers can impact the world of workers’ compensation and workplace issues.”

Specifically on SafetyAtWorkBlog, LexisNexis says

“Safety at Work Blog from Australia recognizes that workplace safety is both a business and social issue where workplace safety, human resources, industrial relations, organizational behavior, environment, quality management and social or psychological issues converge.

Safety at Work Blog seeks to break down the barriers of each discipline, providing thought-provoking blogs on a wide variety of topics from workplace safety to workers’ compensation to politics and much more.”

SafetyAtWorkBlog and all our contributors thank LexisNexis for this unexpected honour and are very proud.

We encourage all SafetyAtWorkBlog readers to look at the other top blogs that are listed HERE.

Kevin Jones

Why have a SafetyAtWorkBlog?

Some people have mentioned to me that they find blogs a mysterious thing.  It’s a media that is gaining attention from mainstream media, in fact, most mainstream media have embraced blogging to supplement the “official” media content in newspapers, journals and on television.  Some blogs have become an important source of news and commentary feeding into the mainstream media.

SafetyAtWorkBlog does not provide all the safety news that is happening in Australia or elsewhere.  In fact nobody is.  But what we can do is select those items of news that we think have a broad appeal to safety professionals.

Also, in Australia, there are only a handful of writers and journalists who specialize in writing on OHS issues and there are many events, conferences, seminars, talks, podcasts, books and other information sources that fall under the radar of mainstream media.  It is in this niche that SafetyAtWorkBlog exists.

Commentary

Blogs were original a web-based log or a web diary where people can put down their thoughts of the day.  But they have become so much more and the feature that is most overlooked by readers is the capacity to comment on the articles posted to a blog.

There is some resemblance to “Letters to the Editor” in traditional media where issues can be raised but, more importantly, readers can comment on the news of the day or the thoughts of columnists, and can clarify inaccurate opinions.

The ability to respond to articles is very important to SafetyAtWorkBlog because we do not know everything about our profession.  OHS is a discipline that continues to evolve just as rapidly as new hazards appear.  The expert who says they know everything is a fool, the smart professional learns all the time.  That is one reason why people read SafetyAtWorkBlog but the blog can be so much better when readers provide their own opinions, particularly if what is said in the blog is wrong in some way.

The best example of reader comments in this blog was the response from Peter Sandman to a piece on a book by Cass Sunstein.  Sandman says

“…a few comments in the review, though flattering to me, are misleading about Sunstein.”

He goes on to list the article’s shortcomings.  One comment from Sandman was then disputed by another reader, Thomas Durkin.

This dialogue showed a terrific level of opinion and provides a better understanding of Sunstein and his place in US politics and government regulation than the solitary review that generated the comments.

News

SafetyAtWorkBlog is not an OHS news service, one can get that from hundreds of news aggregators (the bane of Rupert Murdoch) on the web.  SafetyAtWorkBlog provides commentary and opinion on things that are happening in the OHS world.  If the opinion is wrong or the logic has severe shortcomings or the content is inaccurate, blogs provide the opportunity to correct the information or to balance the opinion.

We have ALWAYS encouraged people to comment on articles we post.  If we can start a debate or help clarify an OHS concept, that’s great.  But if you have something to say about what we say, email it in or post a comment.  Unless it is defamatory or nasty or rude, it will be included and any points made will be genuinely considered and pondered on.

Kevin Jones

Nice comparison on Directors’ complaints

In the Australian Financial Review in October 2009  there was an opinion piece (not available online) from the CEO of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), John Colvin, expressing concerns about the accountability of directors under legislation including the proposed OHS laws in Australia.

According to a report by Adam Schwab in the Crikey newsletter of 23 October 2009 (also not freely available online), Colvin wrote in the AFR:

“There are more than 660 state and territory laws which impose personal liability on individual directors for corporate misconduct. That is, a director is liable because he is a director, even when he may not have had any personal involvement in the breach…”

Schwab writes

“The AICD noted, the NSW courts have taken a hard-line enforcing the deemed liability laws.  According to AICD data, between 2004 and 2008, 144 company directors were found guilty of OHS offences, of which 115 of those prosecutions occurred in NSW.”

Schwab then provides a comparison of risk that I wish I’d thought of:

“That means the proportion of directors convicted over these so-called onerous laws is 0.0068%.  To compare, there is roughly a 0.04% chance of someone being struck by lightning.  Therefore, based on the AICD’s own data, company directors are six times more likely to be hit by lightning than to be prosecuted.  It also shouldn’t be forgotten, directors’ liabilities are almost always covered by indemnity insurance and most prosecutions result in a mere financial penalty.

While the NSW OHS laws result in occasional harsh results, to extrapolate one set of allegedly ill-advised laws across the country is much like a cry of wolf.”

This perspective will be an important one to remember when considering the submissions being lodged with Safe Work Australia on the OHS model laws by 9 November 2009.   The corporate submissions particularly but also those from the OHS law firms that spruiker the exposure of company directors ruthlessly whenever OHS and accountability is discussed.

Some of us remember the “glory days” when industrial manslaughter was widely considered in some Australian States. (There is a noticeable absence of controversy of the industrial manslaughter law that is operating in the Australian Capital Territory)

Also important is the point that Schwab makes about indemnity insurance for Directors and Officers, a matter that has been discussed elsewhere in SafetyAtWorkBlog.

The amount of “get-out-jail-free” options available for directors should encourage more attention to alternative, non-financial penalties for breaches of OHS law.  Over the last 24 hours the United States has been talking about replacing executive cash remunerations with stocks so that director’s incomes are reliant on the share price of the corporation which, in turn, relates to the quality of leadership from the director.

As long as Australia’s principle OHS penalties involve money, directors can buy their way out of trouble.  If Australia’s Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, can face an entire country and apologise for the bad behaviour of others, and the bad policies of other governments in relation to the interaction with indigenous peoples, why should company directors not have a similar obligation when their poor management of a workplace kills someone?  If corporate executives are that keen on leadership, let’s see them apply some of the leadership that Rudd showed, and accept responsibility when they should.

Kevin Jones