Safety should not be the red tape bastard of productivity

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There is a logic being applied to workplace safety and public policy that does not ring true. The argument seems to be that productivity levels in Australia are low, that part of the reason for this low productivity is excessive business paperwork and that workplace safety regulators are a major contributor.   (SafetyAtWorkBlog has written around this topic previously.)

Businessman with devil or angelThe authority on productivity in Australia is, unsurprisingly, the Productivity Commission (PC).  In mid-June 2013, the commission released its Productivity Update, the first of promised annual reports.  Search in the document for “workplace safety” and there is no mention, even “safety” only pulls up a couple of public safety references.  Nothing for “workplace” either.

In fact, the report states that

“Strong growth in labour productivity in the December quarter of 2012-13 could be a sign that a broader improvement in MFP growth is now underway” (page 2)

and

“modelling shows that a comparatively small increase in the rate of labour productivity growth (primarily due to higher MFP growth) could lead to a comparatively large increase in the level of real GDP per person by 2050.” (page 2)

2050 is a long way off but the forecast is for an increase in productivity and the growth in the December quarter could indicate a trend. So for all the productivity gloom and doom being written about in the business newspapers, the reality may be different.   Continue reading “Safety should not be the red tape bastard of productivity”

Six years jail for injury reporting fraud

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B0000187“If it can’t be measured, it can’t be managed”* has been a mantra of business for decades but all measurement can be corrupted.  One of the most contentious elements of occupational health and safety (OHS)  is the measurement of safety performance and a recent prosecution in the United States provides an important lesson for OHS managers everywhere, even though details are scarce.

“On Apr. 11, 2013, Walter Cardin, 55, of Metairie, La., was sentenced to serve 78 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release…. after being charged by a federal grand jury with eight counts of major fraud against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), an agency of the United States.” [link added]

According to the US Attorney’s Office

“Cardin generated false injury rates which were used by the Shaw Group to collect safety bonuses of over $2.5 million from TVA. … Cardin was convicted of providing the false information about injuries by underreporting their number and severity… The evidence presented at trial encompassed over 80 injuries, including broken bones, torn ligaments, hernias, lacerations, and shoulder, back, and knee injuries that were not properly recorded by Cardin. Some employees testified that they were denied or delayed proper medical treatment as a result of Cardin’s fraud. Evidence showed that Cardin intentionally misrepresented or simply lied about how the injuries had occurred and how serious the injuries were.” [link added]

There are many safety management issues related to the conduct of Walter Cardin. Continue reading “Six years jail for injury reporting fraud”

Australia’s psychosocial barometer provides strong evidence for policy and corporate change

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OnlineMBA.com recently uploaded a video about “The True Cost of a Bad Boss“.  It is a good summary of the spread of negative organisational and employee effects that can result from poor management  poor understanding and poor communication.  It is well worth remembering this spread when determining the best way to manage workplace safety and increase productivity.

Cover of The-Australian-Workplace-Barometer-reportAlthough the video is from the US, there is research evidence to support many of the points raised. In December 2012, Safe Work Australia released  The Australian Workplace Barometer Report On Psychosocial Safety Climate and Worker Health in Australia, a report that has been largely missed by the Australian media. The report says that:

“A standout finding here is that depression costs Australian employers approximately AUD$8 billion per annum as a result of sickness absence and presenteeism and AUD$693 million per annum of this is due to job strain and bullying.” (page 6)

This is a significant impact on Australian business costs and, if one takes the OnlineMBA information concerning bad bosses, Australian bosses may need to undertake a considerable amount of self-analysis when lobbying for red-tape reductions and calling for productivity increases. Continue reading “Australia’s psychosocial barometer provides strong evidence for policy and corporate change”

Political ideologies on show over workplace bullying

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In Australia, Parliamentary inquiries are usually required to provide the Parliament with a copy of their findings. In the last week of November 2012, the Chair of the Australia’s Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying, Amanda Rishworth, presented its report which included a dissenting report from the Conservative (Liberal Party) committee members. On 28 November both Alan Tudge MP, one of the dissenting committee members, and Deborah O’Neill (Labor Party), spoke to the House of Representatives about the report. Their speeches say much on the issue of workplace bullying and the politics of workplace health and safety (WHS) in Australia.

Statistics and Costs

Tudge acknowledges the importance of preventing workplace bullying but provides an important fact to remember when reading the full report. According to Hansard, Tudge says

“The prevalence of workplace bullying is not known – there is no statistical data to assess exactly how prevalent it is. Regardless of the precise number, we know that it is too prevalent.” (emphasis added)

This may sound a little contradictory but it summarises a problem when investigating workplace bullying, there are no useful statistics on it. Continue reading “Political ideologies on show over workplace bullying”

Safety is missing from productivity debates

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A March 2012 report from Safe Work Australia reminds us that the issue of productivity and safety is not a new ideological battle. The report states that

“In 1995, an Industry Commission study estimated that only 25 per cent of the total cost of work–related injury and disease was due to the direct costs of work-related incidents. The remaining 75 per cent was accounted for by indirect costs such as lost productivity, loss of income and quality of life.” [link and emphasis added]

The significance of this quote is that the Industry Commission (now the Productivity Commission) established a direct link between work-related injuries and lost productivity. The link was not established by an organisation focusing on safety but one that is all about productivity. But none of the safety advocates or lobbyists have entered the political debate on productivity, even though the relationship between safety management and productivity has been established for almost 20 years, at least.

Continue reading “Safety is missing from productivity debates”