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”

The productivity debate in Australia misses the opportunities presented by wellbeing

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At the moment Australian business is campaigning on the need to increase productivity rates in Australian workplaces.  It, with the recent support of some State governments and ideological colleagues, is seeking to achieve this by weakening the recent changes to the industrial relations structure encapsulated in the Fair Work Act.  Fair Work Australiatrade unions and industry associations are primarily focussed on the industrial relations elements of this ideological fight over productivity.
Evidence of the potential productivity and economic benefits of improved occupational health and safety has been missing in the debate yet it is this linkage that Dame Carol Black has been talking about recently in Australia.  It seems there is a keen audience for her perspective in Australia as she will be visiting the country four times in 2012.
At a recent OHS conference in Melbourne one speaker said some OHS positions in the United States are being renamed Occupational Health Productivity in recognition of the importance of wellbeing  in the OHS roles.  Renaming “wellbeing” as “productivity” provides a different context to OHS activities and should better gain senior executive attention as it would be easier to see how this activity fits with traditional operational thinking. Continue reading “The productivity debate in Australia misses the opportunities presented by wellbeing”

Evidence on the need for safe job design

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One reader has provided an example of recent research that supports the previous SafetyAtWorkBlog article on the importance of quality and safety in job creation.

In the March 2011 online edition of the Occupational & Environmental Medicine journal, Australian researchers have analysed data concerning “the psychosocial quality of work”.  According to an accompanying media release (not available online yet) they found that

“The impact on mental health of a badly paid, poorly supported, or short term job can be as harmful as no job at all…” Continue reading “Evidence on the need for safe job design”

Rolling the sleeves up – a good OHS technique.

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My father has a smallish block up in the bush, north-east Victoria in the Ovens Valley.  He can’t live there safely anymore, but since he built the place himself and with all the family history it has, it’s a place that has to be retained, and protected from bushfire as much as we reasonably can manage.

My partner and I, plus Dah (and a coupla friends) spent a few weeks there around Christmas and New Year doing lots of scrub clearing, garden things and general tidying up in readiness for the predicted return to hot dry summers after that naughty La Nina begins to fade.   These sort of work trips have been going on over quite a few summers.

The big range of jobs on these tidying-up trips range from trimming large branches, working up on roofs, scrub clearing, lots of load shifting, burn-offs, using lots of different powered equipment (chainsaw, scrub-cutters) and dragging out cut scrub with the ute etc etc.

Doing this work has me often giving lots of thought to doing the job efficiently and safely, and observing my own safety stuff-ups.  It gives me a chance to reflect on the safety system stuff we spend lots of time lecturing punters on and how practical it all is when there is limited time to get the job done, it’s 30 degrees Celsius, and the humidity is at a zillion; in other words, in work conditions lots of people have to deal with all the time. Continue reading “Rolling the sleeves up – a good OHS technique.”

All exposure standards must consider hours of work

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The last sixty years’ of research into the effects of hours of work, shiftwork, associated workload, fatigue and affects on social life and families has produced many findings, but no general detailed agreements.  There are interesting debates about who and what to research, what methods to use, what to measure and how to interpret results.  In the meantime workers and managers continue to work in difficult circumstances that research suggests has an impact on hormone secretion patterns, and, for example, on cardiac health, gastrointestinal health and breast cancer.

Here are a number of specific statements about hours of work, fatigue and fitness for work.  Total agreement on these statements can’t be achieved but they would generally be supported.   Continue reading “All exposure standards must consider hours of work”