There is an increasing trend to look deeper into the causal factors of workplace incidents and poor worker health in the physical and psychological contexts. This is partly due to “systems thinking” and partly dissatisfaction with failed regulatory and psychological strategies that promised so much but have failed to realise the promise. The trend needs some boosting by the occupational health and safety (OHS) community, which itself needs upskilling.
Category: migrant labor
Global warming is affecting how we work just as much as how we live. Working in Heat policies are designed based on experience rather than meteorological and climate forecasts, meaning these documents are always chasing reality and not getting ahead of the occupational hazard.
On January 19, 2023, Steven Greenhouse (coincidental name) looked at the topic of working in extreme for Nieman Reports writing that:
“High heat can be a big problem for the nation’s workers, not just farmworkers and construction workers, but delivery workers, utility workers, landscaping workers, and warehouse workers.”
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.