OHS and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Cover of TPP Text 061115Several weeks ago I was asked by a trade unionist to make a submission to the Australian Government explaining how the impending Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) would be bad for worker safety.  I acknowledged concerns over labour relations but pointed out that no matter who is working in an Australian workplace, their safety must be managed.  Whether they are a migrant worker or full-time employee was not relevant to the management of their occupational health and safety (OHS).  The trade unionist was disappointed.

Now the

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“Job Quality” progresses OHS thinking

On housing affordability this week, Australia’s Treasurer, Joe Hockey, suggested a solution would be to get a “good job”. This occurred a month or so after the publication of a terrific book (that Hockey obviously has yet to read) called “Job Quality in Australia“, edited by Angela Knox and Chris Warhurst for Federation Press. The editors write about the importance of job quality which “…affects attitudes, behaviour and outcomes at the individual, organisational and national level” (page 1) and job quality’s political context:

“While the current Abbott government is primarily concerned with improving Australia’s macro-economic position, such a position is unlikely to be achieved and sustained without a policy agenda focusing on job quality.” (page 2)

Significantly for this blog’s readership, the book has a chapter, written by

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One in three safety devices unfit to save lives

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On September 3 2013 I will be on a panel in Sydney discussing issues associated with working at heights. Below is a media release (not yet available online) about the panel and some recent data on working at heights risks. The quotes are mine.

Inaction by policy makers is putting lives at risk and now, says a peak safety industry body, there are the numbers to prove it.

The Working At Heights Association (WAHA) will host a crisis summit on Tuesday at The Safety Show Sydney, where it will reveal that one in three roof anchors are unfit for use. Of the 3245 anchors audited by association members over the last three months, 2260 were deemed unusable.

Part of the problem, says WAHA secretary Gordon Cadzow, has been the lack of awareness of the number of inadequate safety systems on Australia’s rooftops.

Continue reading “One in three safety devices unfit to save lives”

Grandad’s safety rules remain relevant over 50 years later

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A safety colleague showed me an old book about workplace safety that his father had found in a book sale.  It’s called “Safety on the Job” and was produced by the Master Builders Association of Victoria “for free distribution to the Building Trade” around 1959.  The cover mirrors the iconic Australian cartoon from 1933 by Stan Cross.

On the cover is a stamp saying “J Division”.  J Division was part of Melbourne’s Pentridge Jail, the section for:

“Young Offenders Group – Later for long-term with record of good behavior”

The publication is not specifically designed for young workers but there is some excellent information, for the time, included on “standard crane whistles”, explosive power tools regulations and trenching.

Most intriguing is the chapter “Common Sense Suggestions for Managers, Supervisors, Foremen and Safety Officers, etc.”  It is surprising how many of the suggestions remain relevant today.  Perhaps the booklet was trying to generate common sense rather than reflecting it.  Below are the first ten suggestions.

  1. “When you make your daily rounds it is your job to make them a hazard-hunting inspection as well. Continue reading “Grandad’s safety rules remain relevant over 50 years later”

Just workplace hardship

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Yossi Berger writes:

We’re all familiar with the notions of focus and attention, and selective attention.  We’ve all experienced how difficult it can be to attend to target information when background noise is distracting.  The issue can be referred to as the signal-to-noise ratio.

I often find its effects in discussions with managers and workers during workplace inspections.  That is, I hear animated discussions of hazards, of risks, of risk assessments and risk management and various systems and theories.  The conversations over flow with these concepts whilst most of workers’ daily problems aren’t even raised, they don’t reach the level of a signal.

Thankfully in most workplaces, most managers and most workers have not experienced any fatalities.  By far most of them will not have experienced or witnessed a serious injury or serious disease.  Nor have most experienced their local hazards actually seriously hurting anyone.

But most workers will have experienced some dangerous working conditions, mostly not mortally dangerous, but dangerous.  Continue reading “Just workplace hardship”