Environmental tobacco smoke, workplace stress – podcast 2006

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In 2006, one of the earliest editions of the SafetyAtWork podcast featured several speakers on issues that remain topical.  The podcast is available for download

Anne Mainsbridge, currently a Solicitor with the Public Interest Advocacy Centre talks about her report on environmental tobacco smoke.

This is followed by Associate Professor Tony LaMontagne of the University of Melbourne talking about a systematic approach to managing workplace stress.  This was a report that was published by the Victorian Health Department and, as such, slipped by many OHS professionals.  The report is now available for download

The audio production is rough for such an early podcast, and I apologise, but I think you will find the content of interest.

Kevin Jones

Workplace safety insurance – podcast

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Douglas_A 2Recently I interviewed workplace lawyer, Andrew Douglas, pictured right, while researching an article concerning the application of statutory liability insurance policies to workplace safety management.

SafetyAtWorkBlog is pleased to provide our latest podcast which includes my interview with Andrew.  The interview provides simpler information on the statutory liability issue but also, and perhaps more importantly, we discuss how business perceives the role of insurance  in managing safety and risk.  We also contemplate the impact of such insurance on OHS regulators’ enforcement policies.


Kevin Jones

Does union presence improve OHS?

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The trade union movement is an important element in the management of safety in workplaces but over the last twenty years, with the exception of a couple of industry sectors, the membership numbers have waned.  Until recently in Australia, the union movement was able to maintain a level of influence in the government decision-making process that was contrary to its declining membership.

Last week the Deputy Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, told the ACTU to stop lobbying the government and instead generate innovation, enthusiasm and members by reintroducing itself to the community.  Union membership spiked in response to its anti-Howard government advertising over three years ago but any membership based on fear is unsustainable.

Paul Kelly in today’s Australian is more forthright about the trade union position in society and politics but it is clear that the union movement needs to refocus.

Health and safety representatives (HSRs) have been a major element of the enforcement of safety standards in workplaces.  Some OHS legislation in the last decade has had to emphasise non-union consultation on safety issues to balance the declining presence of HSRs.  New research from Europe has found the following

three researchers reviewed
the studies done on the matter in Europe. They
conclude that having trade union representation
leads to better observance of the rules,
lower accident rates and fewer work-related
health problems.

“having trade union representation leads to better observance of the rules, lower accident rates and fewer work-related health problems.”

Transposing these findings into a non-European context is unwise but the research could provide a model for independent research and a comparative study.

Regrettably the report is not available for free but can be purchased through the European Trade Union Institute.

Kevin Jones

OHS writing is awful too often

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We’ve all done it: slipped into auto-mode when putting together OH&S documentation for a punter.  Cut and paste, slam together a whole bunch of references, lots of assumptions that the reader will “get it’”. 

Cutting to the chase- April 2009 revision #2_Page_1And we’ve all probably seen one of those sets of OH&S documents for a safety management system that impresses only by its thickness.  Packed with stock phrases that make us OH&S lot feel all comfy, but leave the punter scratching their head over what the hell we are on about and what it is they are actually expected to do.

I plead guilty to having done that occasionally.  But it grates on me when I re-read something I’ve done from the past that has all those lazy characteristics that bad OH&S writing can drop into; particularly grating since I’ve becoming increasingly dismayed at the frustration punters have with OH&S and how it seems so impenetrable.

A few years ago I put together a guide on writing OH&S stuff (mostly focussing on guidance material).  I’ve altered it a bit to fit all sorts of OH&S writing but it is available for download (and free) by clicking on the image on this post.

Feel free to use it.  If you’re going to quote bits from it in your own stuff I just ask that I be acknowledged as the author.

Col Finnie

Charges laid on swing stage collapse

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SafetyAtWorkBlog reported on a scaffolding incident in Queensland in mid-2008.  Charges have now been laid but not manslaughter charges as were called for at the time by the unions.

The workers were fatally injured on 21 June 2008 when the swing stage scaffold they were using to carry out concrete patchwork on the Pegasus high-rise, then under construction at Broadbeach, failed and fell 26 levels to the ground.

According to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland

Allscaff Systems Pty Ltd, which erected the swing stage, is charged with failing to ensure the plant was erected in a way that ensured it was safe when used properly.

Ralph Michael Smith, director of Allscaff Systems Pty Ltd, is charged with failing to ensure the company complied with its obligations under the Act.

Karimbla Construction Services Pty Limited, which built the high-rise, is charged with breaching obligations as a person in control of a workplace and as project manager.

Pryme Constructions Pty Ltd, which undertook the concrete patching, is charged with breaching its obligations to ensure workplace health and safety.

SsfetyAtWorkBlog will be following this case over the next few months.