Do we have to work?

You often learn more about your area of speciality from reading outside of that speciality. Matthew Taylor’s book “Do We Have To Work?” is one of those books though it overlaps with occupational health and safety (OHS), if one thinks of the role and place of OHS in modern business.

The Big Idea series of books by Thanes & Hudson uses a jaunty format that is jarring in some ways but attractive in others. Its pages use fonts of different sizes, lots of colour images and highlighted cross-references that look like a Dummies Guide on acid, but the content is so good the reader works out where to look and what to choose fairly quickly.

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Wage theft needs more OHS analysis

Journalist Ben Schneiders has written an excellent book about wage theft in Australian businesses – where it came from, why it persists, and the inequality it generates through institutional and wilful exploitation. What is missing is a chapter, at least, on the occupational health and safety (OHS) contexts of this exploitation. OHS is touched on but is also missed when discussing some of the pay and working conditions.

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The man on the stair who isn’t really there

On August 26 2022, Australia’s Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Tony Burke, spoke at a union conference.  This is not an unusual event for Ministers, but the timing of Burke’s address was less than a week before a major Jobs and Skills Summit – the hottest political event in town at the moment.  The transcript of the speech provides clues and hints as to how occupational health and safety (OHS) may or may not be discussed.

There is an early indication that safe workplaces are important (heart skips a beat), but then it seems shunted to the side.  Burke said:

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Possible Treasury and Industrial Relations white papers before the Job Summit and October Budget

So what level and type of well-being budget did Dr Jim Chalmers commit his government to? A lot less than we anticipated last week. Dr Chalmers gave a nod to the work of his New Zealand counterpart but seems to be waiting for further discussion in the “jobs summit” in September 2022.

Michelle Grattan has written that:

“A coming test for consensus will be the September jobs summit. This will be an ideas-gathering exercise, but the government will also want to shape it as a prelude to the October budget, and that will require some common messages.”

Regardless of Dr Chalmers’ intention to develop a well-being budget, the jobs summit will have the same tripartite of industrial relations and occupational health and safety (OHS) invitees. Unless Dr Chalmers and Treasury offer up something fresh, like an OHS perspective on the prevention of mental health, innovation is unlikely. Little more than “in-principle” agreements should be anticipated.

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Good framework but insufficient analysis

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is rarely analysed as a stand-alone business element. As such opportunities are missed to clarify one’s understanding of work health and safety and companies’ experience of it beyond “commitments” and workers’ compensation costs.

There is great potential for change in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially Goal number 8. Sadly, even here “Decent Work” which includes the safety and health of workers (8.8) is shared with “Economic Growth”. As a result, it is often difficult to isolate the OHS components. A recent analysis of Australia’s ASX200 companies illustrates the problem.

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Insecure work is not going away, but it should

Insecure work creates stress for workers and their families yet companies continue to choose insecure work contracts for this type of work. They must take some responsibility for the physical and mental health consequences.

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Insecure work creates stress for workers and their families yet companies continue to choose insecure work contracts for this type of work. They must take some responsibility for the physical and mental health consequences.

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Jessie Singer and the “social autopsy”

I am halfway through an extraordinary book called “There Are No Accidents –
The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster—Who Profits and Who Pays the Price
” by Jessie Singer. It is extraordinary in many ways, but the most significant is that Singer chose to write a book for the general reader about how people are hurt at work, home and when driving and how describing these as “accidents” deflects responsibility, as if there was nothing that could be done to prevent them. This is of huge significance to the advocates of work health and safety, and the book’s release should spark interviews with Singer and book reviews which could lead to a broader social discussion of safety.

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