Acts of God, the morality of safety – interview with Sidney Dekker

The latest episode of Safety At Work Talks is a return to the sequence of interviews with Professor Sidney Dekker.  In April 2017, Dekker published a book called The End of Heaven which discusses suffering.  This book has a very different tone from his previous books and is intriguing.

The breadth of the discussion was also surprising with concepts and references rarely talked about in relation to occupational health and safety, such as morality, Acts of God, train disasters and the Bible.  If this sounds heavy, it is useful to follow the discussion that leads to this statement from Dekker:

“Safety Culture is the new Human Error”.

This latest episode is available at



Kevin Jones

Discussion of corporate culture includes OHS even when it doesn’t

The political debate about the dysfunctional culture of Australia’s banking sector has diminished to a discussion, and that discussion continues to bubble along, mostly, in the Australian Financial Review (AFR).  The discussion is important for the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession to watch as any change in safety management systems will occur within the corporate or organisational culture.

Two (possibly paywalled) articles appeared this week in the AFR – “

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Near Kill – Jim Ward speaks

Jim Ward is hardly known outside the Australian trade union movement but many people over the age of thirty, or in the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession, may remember the person Esso blamed for the Esso Longford explosion in 1998.  Just after the nineteenth anniversary of the incident that killed two workers and injured eight other, SafetyAtWorkBlog interviewed Ward about the incident but, more significantly, also about how that incident changed his world view.

For some time now Jim Ward has been the National OHS Director for the Australian Workers’ Union.  Here is a long interview with Ward that provides a useful perspective on OHS while Australia conducts its National Safe Work Month.

[Note: any links in the text have been applied by SafetyAtWorkBlog]

SAWB: Jim, what happened at Longford, and what did it mean for you.

JW:   So, on 25 September 1998, I got up out of bed and went to work, just as I’d done for the previous 18 years of my working life, at the Esso gas plant facility at Longford in Victoria.

There was nothing unforeseen or untoward about that particular day.  But due to, as one judge elegantly described it, “a confluence of events”, it turned out to be the most significant day of my life.

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Measure the old, plan for the new

“What gets measured, gets done” is a common phrase in corporate-speak but needs to be treated with caution in terms of occupational health and safety (OHS).

In The Australian newspaper of October 5 2017 (paywalled) an article about remuneration and innovation includes a brief but telling discussion of the perception of OHS.

Sylvia Falzon is a director of the companies Perpetual and Regis Healthcare.  The article states that Falzon is a

“great believer that ‘what gets measured gets done”.

However, this belief has important limitations. 

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Workplace mental health and wellbeing strategies must consider suicide

There is an increased blurring between the workplace, work and mental health.  In the past, work and life were often split implying that one had little to do with the other except for a salary in return for effort and wellness in preparation for productiveness.  This split was always shaky but was convenient for lots of reasons, one of which was the management of occupational health and safety (OHS).  However that perceptual split is over, now that mental health has come to the fore in many OHS considerations.


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David Caple provides the latest in reality-based OHS thinking

Recently David Caple gave his annual address to the Central Safety Group in Melbourne.  Caple (pictured above) is a prominent ergonomist, an adjunct professor at the Centre for Ergonomics & Human Factors, La Trobe University, a representative on several government OHS-related committees and has an enviable information network.

Fresh from the Singapore OHS conference, Caple speculated on the future of the workplace safety profession at a time when many are indicating an increasing demand for OHS services and advice.  He used a graph of the membership of the Safety Institute of Australia to illustrate part of the challenge.

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Cancer survivors returning to work

If occupational health and safety (OHS) is to include the “whole-of-life” for workers, companies, products and projects, OHS professionals need to expand their pool of knowledge to meet the demands for an inclusive organisational culture.  One recent research paper supports this approach by looking at the return to work of cancer survivors.

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