If you don’t sound the alarm, who will?

Last week the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) National Conference contained some excellent speakers and one or two stinkers. (I will not be reporting on the last speaker of the conference, who spent his first ten minutes “roasting”. i.e. insulting the delegates!) Safe Work Australia’s Marie Boland was an important and informative speaker who nudged the occupational health and safety profession to be more active.

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Work (re)design needs government subsidies to succeed

Last week, SafeWork New South Wales progressed the management of psychosocial hazards at work with the release of its Designing Work to Manage Psychosocial Risks guidance. This document has been a long time coming and offers significant advice on how work and people management needs to change in order to prevent psychosocial hazards. However, its implementation is likely to generate considerable opposition and confusion, or even organisational shock, if it is not able to convince employers of increased profitability and productivity from making the change.

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A call to arms on OHS

In early January 2024, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a commentary by Professor Alex Collie that illustrates the need to broaden our consideration of “traditional” and psychosocial hazards and well-being at work. The article is paywalled but worth obtaining a copy.

Collie‘s research is always interesting, and being published in the BMJ adds some clout to this call for activism.

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The normalisation of quad bike safety

Segway has made a push into the Australian quad bike market, helping to fill the gap left by some vehicle manufacturers who would not accept safety improvements to their quad bikes. Prominent Australian agricultural newspaper, The Weekly Times, reviewed the latest Segway quad bike models. Rider safety was not mentioned specifically in the review, but it was visibly present in the accompanying image and reinforced by Segway’s video media relelase.

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Get rid of dinosaur thinking on workplace mental health

Victoria’s coronial services has been found guilty of breaching its occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations after one of its employees died by suicide, identifying work issues as a major factor in her death. WorkSafe Victoria has released the best source of information on this case. Most of the mainstream media is relying on a newswire report,which is based on WorkSafe’s information.

Significantly none of the prevention strategies identified by WorkSafe are included in the media reports even though this is perhaps the most vital information for preventing recurrences.

This article looks at the advice offered by WorkSafe Victoria in its media release on what actions it believes could prevent the occupational factors that resulted in this suicide from emerging, or not being addressed, in your workplaces.

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Working in Heat, and Gwarda

New research into working in excessive heat concisely summarises the socioeconomic impacts but misses the obvious strategies to prevent or diminish these impacts. It also includes impacts on productivity, but heat and climate change are not in the current Australian business group discussions about productivity. Those groups could benefit from understanding Gwarda.

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Can OHS institutions be change agents?

Last night Sharan Burrow delivered the 2023 Laurie Carmichael Lecture in Melbourne. Her lecture was a little rambling and full of essential industrial and environmental changes but with little innovation on how to achieve them. (A transcript will be publicly released shortly) There was, however, an opportunity to ask her about the role of occupational health and safety institutions as change agents. Her response is below.

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