Recently David Caple gave his annual address to the Central Safety Group in Melbourne. Caple (pictured above) is a prominent ergonomist, an adjunct professor at the Centre for Ergonomics & Human Factors, La Trobe University, a representative on several government OHS-related committees and has an enviable information network.
Fresh from the Singapore OHS conference, Caple speculated on the future of the workplace safety profession at a time when many are indicating an increasing demand for OHS services and advice. He used a graph of the membership of the Safety Institute of Australia to illustrate part of the challenge.
Every safety conference needs a Dave Provan. Provan (pictured right) is researching the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession and discussed this research at a recent conference organised by the Safety Institute of Australia. One of his earliest comments was also the most confronting:
“the safety profession is entirely discretionary”.
Provan’s perspective, shared by thought leaders in Australian OHS deserves further discussion as businesses may be investing in unnecessary people.
Innes Willox of the Australian Industry Group (pictured right) is a well-established figure in Australia’s political and industrial landscape. As such he was a good choice to be the first speaker at a small safety conference in Melbourne Australia.
The best speakers about workplace safety are often those who do not speak about safety but those who speak about a world that includes occupational health and safety (OHS).
Victoria Australia has had a network of safety groups for well over 40 years with two or three enduring into this century. On 5 July 2017, the Ballarat Regional Occupational Safety and Health Group (BROSH) held an interactive seminar on Return-To-Work (RTW). The discussion was not revolutionary but allowed the audience – a mix of businesses, OHS professionals and students – to speak about their lived experiences with managing injured workers.
I brought the WorkSafe 2030 Strategy discussion paper to the audience’s attention and a WorkSafe representative from the seminar’s panel, pictured above, said that there are several weird technical suggestions for workplace inspections and advice emerging from the discussion within the OHS regulator. However the strategy is focussed always on the client and that it is “prevention-led”. OHS is all about the prevention of illness and injury but it appears that WorkSafe is extending this term to RTW.
The representative explained that the regulator is looking at interventions that prevent an injury or illness claim transforming into, or contributing to, another and new injury. They hope that by focussing on the injured worker and providing the right level of advice and support, the will achieve the best RTW outcome for all involved.
One of the questions from the audience was if there is a better RTW and workers’ compensation system that Victoria could move to or learn from. The panel agreed that the Victorian system seems to be leading Australia in terms of its financial health but, more importantly, the level of care and support options provided to injured workers.
The BROSH seminar was well attended and the audience was active, which largely resulted from the innovative and engaging seminar structure.
WorkSafe Victoria has released a discussion paper in support of its development of a WorkSafe Strategy 2030 but you wouldn’t know it. At the time of writing – there is no mention of it on the Facebook page, nothing on its news website. The paper is only available through this rarely used community engagement page.
One of this blog’s readers drew attention to this paragraph on page 8 which indicates that WorkSafe Victoria is basing part of this discussion paper on recent reports which seem to include the Independent OHS Review which is yet to be publicly released:
“A number of independent reviews undertaken recently have also highlighted opportunities for us to strengthen our approach to regulating health and safety in Victorian workplaces, and in further supporting injured workers.
We know in some cases we are not meeting the expectations of the community, and the outcomes of these reviews are informing the development of our strategy, and the way we deliver our services in the future.”
It would be good to know what failed community expectations are being referred to.