Business management, including safety management, talks about “step changes”, new paradigms and a lot of jargon. Part of the use of this language is an attempt to manage progress and change in small comprehensible chunks. But it can also expose business owners to short-term fads, giving rise to frustration and cynicism about occupational health and safety (OHS).
One example of the step change mindset was on display several years ago in LinkedIn where the image above was posted, sadly, with no context. The before/after structure of this graphic is often used in the management of workplace health and safety.
The latest media release from the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) shows a remarkable maturity and a newfound ability to be inclusive and topical.
The AIHS, in conjunction with several other occupational health and safety (OHS) related organisations, developed and released an important guidance on respiratory protection masks for the work environment. Not only is this super topical but the effort has the support of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), an organisation that, historically, has been reluctant to support OHS initiatives from outside trade union resources.
The primary purpose of the media release is to push the Federal Government for “the urgent establishment of a register for approved respirators (aka face masks)”, but this may be too simplistic and too narrow a focus especially when the issue of face masks is a critical part of the Governments’ plans to “reopen” the economy.
Government policies that directly affect occupational health and safety (OHS) have been determined on a tripartite structure for many decades. This model comprises of representatives from business groups and trade unions in a consultation usually led by the government representatives. SafetyAtWorkBlog believes that this structure excludes important voices and is outdated, especially in a time when technology and the internet allows for a much broader consultation.
The limitations of the tripartite structure were on display recently when the Australian Government released the names of the organisations involved in the review of the industrial relations system. It is worth reading the list for you to understand who will be deciding your working future. It is also worth considering whether the negative OHS impacts of job and employment structures will be given the attention they deserve.
The recent employment data for Australia shows record levels of unemployment due, largely, to COVID19. People are out of work and are seeking jobs in areas and occupations with which they are unfamiliar, and we know that new workers are at a high risk of injury. But “safe jobs” has rarely been a government priority.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg held a long press conference after the release of the employment statistics on June 18 2020. Nine times the pair stressed the government’s priority was to get Australians “back into work”. Safe and healthy jobs were never mentioned. One could argue that occupational health and safety (OHS) was not part of the economic discussion on that day (it never is) but there is an equal argument to say that the inclusion of either adjective “safe” and “healthy” could create a cultural change in Australian workplaces, a cost-reduction strategy for Australian businesses and an increased quality of life and improved social cohesion for all Australians.
This week I found a research paper in my inbox called “How logical is safety? An institutional logics perspective on safety at work”. The Background and Objective were, respectively:
“Occupational incidents and accidents are still commonplace in the contemporary workplace, despite increased understandings of safety.”
“This article aims to yield new insights into safety-related thinking, decisions and behaviours through the application of an institutional logics perspective.”
As most readers do, I read something and try to link it with ideas, concepts and conversations we have been involved with in the past. My brain tried to fit the use of “institutional logics” with safety culture and then with organisational culture but it did not seem to fit, and I wondered whether I should bother with institutional logics.