Addendum: Chris Smith and the prevention of harm

The earlier Chris Smith article mentioned the earlier incidents that, given his recidivism, the control measures implemented failed or were inadequate. If these incidents had involved occupational health and safety (OHS) concepts and investigations, the latest incident may never have occurred.

OHS is big on investigations and contributory factors but usually after an incident. OHS tends to identify faults and failures after the event. However, this has become the norm because OHS and employers are less able or interested in investigating incidents with lesser consequences or what OHS call Near Misses. Chris Smith had no near misses, each of the earlier “misbehaviours’ were incidents that seem not to have been investigated to the standard or depth intended in OHS.

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Dunlop on psychosocial risks in law firms

Recently Maddocks law firm partner Catherine Dunlop spoke on the Lawyers Weekly Show podcast about psychosocial risks in the workplace. Although the podcast aims at legal practices, Dunlop’s comments and advice seem to apply to many white-collar jobs and professions.

Dunlop said that the discussion about psychosocial hazards at work has matured since the sexual harassment Respect@Work report and that:

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Governments could improve their OHS performance if they wanted

In 2019, the head of SafeWork South Australia, Martyn Campbell, told this blog that he agreed that government departments should be exemplars in occupational health and safety and that “we should be the pinnacle of safety professionalism and leadership”. It should not be a surprise to hear the head of an OHS regulatory agency claim this, but the origin of the question to Campbell stemmed from a review of Victoria’s OHS Act by Chris Maxwell QC in 2004.

Given the recent OHS-related scandals in various jurisdictions, which have often been related to the management of the coronavirus pandemic, it is worth reminding ourselves of the OHS performance standards that Maxwell advocated for all government departments and agencies.

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When exemplars are far from

Extensive multinational auditing and consulting firms have been hammered for the last few years over the potential conflict of both auditing and advising the same companies and a toxic workplace culture. Most companies will not be able to afford these consultants’ prices, but the conduct of the large companies, the “corporate leaders”, affects every business by setting the standards. The influence of these large companies over public (and work health and safety) policy should also be noted and is being reviewed by some governments.

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OHS is a journey but does it have to be so long?

Commitments to occupational health and safety (OHS) not only appear in Parliamentary debates on workplace safety. Last week, Labor Party politician Will Fowles reiterated the Victorian government’s OHS commitment in a speech about justice amendments and the police.

“This justice legislation amendment bill also establishes a legislative framework for the restorative engagement and redress scheme to support current and former Victoria Police [VicPol] employees who have experienced past workplace sex discrimination or sexual harassment.

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Sunlight on “an atmosphere of fear’

The Queensland Government and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk have been under heavy criticism for their workplace cultures and leadership since the release of the Coaldrake report last week – a “review of culture and accountability in the Queensland public sector”.

The report is very critical of the Queensland government’s management of the public service, identifying problems with the overuse of external consultants, issues of unfairness, the lack of transparency and openness, bullying and more. These findings could apply to most of the contemporary public sectors in Australia nationally and locally (as well as most medium- to large-sized companies).

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Best book yet for the OHS professional

The star of Australian academic Dr David Provan is on the rise. Academic, podcaster, author, local and international conference speaker and more, Provan is challenging the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession and professionals on many fronts. This month his self-published book “A Field Guide to Safety Professional Practice” went on sale. It is a unique book and is an essential addition to every OHS professional’s library and practice.

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