Sen. Doug Cameron launches “Hard Work Never Killed Anybody”

Cameron 20150507 01On 7 May 2015, Senator Doug Cameron (Australian Labor Party, pictured) launched a new book written by John Bottomley (pictured, centre) called “Hard Work Never Killed Anybody – How the idolisation of work sustains this deadly lie“. Cameron acknowledged the uniqueness of the book as ranging

“…across, theology, Marxism, the Protestant work ethic, and the Enlightenment.”

This combination is rare in the field of occupational health and safety but Cameron said that Bottomley provides evidence that

“…the promise of industrialised society that hard work brings its own rewards is a lie”

and that this is a necessary and important challenge to the current political consensus. Continue reading “Sen. Doug Cameron launches “Hard Work Never Killed Anybody””

Parliamentary inquiry discusses OHS but no one noticed

Australia’s politicians, trade unionists, businesses and media are gearing up for a tumultuous year in industrial relations with the controversial establishment of a Royal Commission into trade union corruption.  This royal commission is broad-ranging but targets the construction unions, particularly the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and thus the construction unions’ conduct with regard to allegedly using occupational health and safe as a cover or excuse for industrial action. This royal commission has a strong element of party politics and ideologies and has overshadowed other action in the Australian Parliament where OHS is being discussed.

On 6 February 2014 the Education and Employment References Committee of the Australian Senate continued its inquiry into the Government’s approach to re-establishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) through the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013.  One of the terms of reference for this inquiry is

“whether the provisions of the bills relating to occupational health and safety in the building and construction industry are adequate to protect the health and safety of employees and contractors in the industry”.

On February 6 the inquiry had some heated discussion on OHS and the construction industry that deserves a closer look.

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Australia set to open its National Workers Memorial

NWM HERO SHOT 2For several years Australia has been designing and constructing a National Workers Memorial.  This weekend, on the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, Australia holds its first national remembrance day at the new memorial on the banks Lake Burley Griffin in Australia’s capital city, Canberra.

The memorial has been coordinated by the National Capital Authority who has established a website for this memorial. The website will have live coverage of the inauguration ceremony at 11.00am AEST. Continue reading “Australia set to open its National Workers Memorial”

Lessons for Australia from UK assault on OHS red tape

The chase for government and corporate effectiveness and productivity increases through cutting “red tape” has, historically, had dubious longterm benefits. The attack on the red tape of occupational health and safety (OHS) has been brutal in the United Kingdom and has occurred with an unforgiving, and misguided, tabloid media.  Some in the UK media have been pointing out the government’s strategic folly, the latest is Russell Lynch in the Evening Standard.

On 20 September 2012, Lynch brutally described the UK situation:

“Safer businesses are more productive, not least because of the management time taken up when some poor sod has to be scraped off the floor. And let’s not forget inspections focus on occupational health as well, meaning employees have more chance of working without developing illnesses.”

The sad part of this statement is that productivity advantage of safer businesses has been known by governments for some time but that the wave of red tape attacks was politically stronger.

Some Australian States are on an extreme austerity drive even though the Australian economy is nowhere near as troubled as that of the United Kingdom.  These strategies usually call for across-the-board percentage reductions in costs.  This generality is a major problem as productivity and cost-effectiveness of specific organisations is not considered.  Untargeted cuts penalise the successful and the inefficient – the current experience of the Health and Safety Executive. Continue reading “Lessons for Australia from UK assault on OHS red tape”

Substantial change in OHS needs clever politics

According to the UK Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), from 6 April 2012 businesses will no longer be obliged to notify the Health & Safety Executive of those injuries that result in a worker’s absence of up to seven days.  The DWP’s media statement about these changes estimates:

“The change to the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) 1995 will see a fall of around 30 per cent in the number of incidents that must be reported by law – an average of around 30,000 fewer reports a year. The move is estimated to save businesses 10,000 hours a year.”

The business saving claim is very dubious (see below) as companies will still need to process any workers’ compensation claim or medical costs generated by the incident.  OHS professionals and safety managers will still need to investigate the incident and identify measures to prevent a recurrence.  These costs will continue. Continue reading “Substantial change in OHS needs clever politics”

St John Ambulance claims first aid training could counter the OHS culture of fear

First aid is one of the most neglected, even though vital, safety resources in workplaces. Although most workplaces will have someone trained in first aid working for them, this is rarely integrated into a workplace let alone into any preventative safety management processes.

Recently St John Ambulance in England, according to one newspaper report, claimed that

“Better training would have a greater effect on the health and safety culture than changes to regulations discussed by the [UK] Government…”

The St John Ambulance CEO, Sue Killen [not the most appropriate surname for a CEO of a lifesaving organisation] spoke about the UK Prime Minister’s “culture of fear” saying by asking:

“…what is causing this fear? At St John Ambulance, we believe it comes from a lack of knowledge – specifically, first aid knowledge. Continue reading “St John Ambulance claims first aid training could counter the OHS culture of fear”

UK’s approach to OHS reform is flawed by short-term political strategy

England’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, has described OHS as a “monster” in a speech to small business owners on 5 January 2012. It is important to note the PM’s comments prior to his monster reference that have not been repeated in the mainstream press. He refers to

“… a great big machine of health and safety that has built up over years.”

Cameron feels that he needs to address an OHS regulatory system and enforcement strategies that have become too complex for, particularly, small business to comply with. Part of his solution is to exempt the self-employed, in some specific sectors, from OHS laws. This is a questionable decision as it effectively establishes a two-tier safety management regime and sets a precedent for other similar sectors to lobby for an exemption from other, perceived, onerous laws.

It may be that OHS laws in the UK have become overly complicated over time but the role of the media must be considered in that it has focussed on many absurd managerial decisions that have resulted from a skewed understanding of OHS and risk. Frequently the media reports have no relation to OHS laws and all to do with an increasing litigious society and the pursuit of money through, potentially spurious, public liability insurance claims.

In the 5 January 2012 speech Cameron states that

“…the key about health and safety is not just the rules and the laws and the regulations – it is also the culture of fear many businesses have about health and safety.” (emphasis added)

Cameron explains his answer for reducing this fear of health and safety, the capping of fees that lawyers can earn from legal action against businesses on behalf of their clients, usually, employees. There is no fear of health and safety, it is a fear of litigation. Cameron is not on about OHS law reform, his concern is about “unnecessary” litigation costs. This is unlikely to be reduced by cutting the budget of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) which must reduce services as the HSE resources have been contracting for some time. Continue reading “UK’s approach to OHS reform is flawed by short-term political strategy”