The lobbying for “control” impedes corporate and OHS growth 2

“When we look at global trends it’s clear that Australia’s labour laws are not the primary cause of the contraction in manufacturing.”

Shelley Marshall, a Monash University researcher and Fair Wear Australia spokesperson made this statement at an Australian Senate inquiry on 2 February, 2012.  The statement, reported in The Australian Financial Review (not available online), was used to illustrate the complexities of outworker protections under the Fair Work Act but it is, occasionally, worth looking a broader context.  If one accepts that workplace safety is a subset of industrial relations laws (as SafetyAtWorkBlog does), Marshall’s comments help cut through some of the recent hyperbole from the industry associations and lobbyists about the significant economic and productivity costs of OHS law reform.

Marshall identified the extension of supply chains as affecting productivity.  The issue of supply chain responsibility has an established OHS context as it relates to the issue of “control”, a matter raised as an objection to the implementation of new Work Health and Safety laws.  More…

New research on quad bike safety remains academic in a climate of uncertain OHS reform 3

Dr Tony Lower of the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health & Safety (AgHealth) has released a farm safety research report of curiosity more than influence.  The report, Farm Related Injuries Reported in the Australian Print Media 2011, makes use of the media monitoring services that the centre has been using for over five years.  The accompanying media release, not yet available online, summarises some basic findings:

“According to the report released by the Centre today, the 2011 information illustrates a 60% drop in the number of on‐farm injury deaths when compared to the early 1990’s, where the average number of deaths was 146 per year. “This reduction over the past 20 years is fantastic news, however by our estimates, many more deaths can be prevented by adopting solutions which we know from the evidence work” said Dr Lower.

The study results show that quad bikes (18) were the leading cause and made up 31% of all deaths.

Meanwhile tractors (10) were responsible for 17% of incidents. Tragically, seven of the fatal cases (11%) involved children aged 15yrs and under, with quad bikes (3) and drowning (2) being most frequently involved.”

An understandable limitation of the report is the fact that the social influence of print media is much less than in previous decades and that the report misses multimedia and the new medias.  This is one of those research reports than can genuinely suggest additional research to increase the relevance of the findings.   More…

OHS harmonisation may be dead, so who will pick up the pieces? 11

One of the best summaries of the current status of the new Australian Work Health and Safety laws was published in The Australian newspaper on 27 January 2012 (not available without a subscription).  Lawyers from Norton Rose, Michael Tooma, Alena Titterton and Melissa Cornell, express doubts that harmonisation of national safety laws is possible.  They write:

“At this point in time, it looks unlikely that harmonisation will be achieved at any time during 2012, if it is ever achieved at all.”

The question needs to be asked whether the whole harmonisation process has been waste of time of whether some good has resulted from all the effort.  Prior to Christmas 2011, some legal commentators were satisfied that the harmonisation process had “lifted” several States’ OHS laws to a contemporary standard but the aim of harmonisation, indeed the “promise” of harmonisation was so much more.

Australian businesses that operate over multiple jurisdictions are justified in pointing the finger of blame at the ultra-conservative business groups, lobbyists and alarmists for stifling a very promising reform.  The administrative process could have been handled much better but each government had signed commitments to reform from which many are now weaseling out of.  Regardless of subsequent changes of government, these commitments should have been upheld.

Tooma, Titterton and Cornell summarise by writing:

“For legislative reform that was meant to be about providing clarity to a complex area with differing standards across multiple jurisdictions, after four years of significant effort, it appears we may have been merely gifted more confusion and simply a different set of differences. More…

St John Ambulance claims first aid training could counter the OHS culture of fear 2

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. More…

CEO departure has no apparent controversy 4

Speculation has been rife about the departure of Victorian WorkSafe’s CEO, Greg Tweedly since it was announced on 11 January 2012. Crikey (not available online) has aired questions about Tweedly’s lack of action on workplace bullying which WorkSafe has been accused of not addressing. The Age newspaper has juxtaposed the Liberal Government’s use of $A471 million of WorkCover premiums for consolidated revenue with Tweedly’s departure.

On the workplace bullying issue, Tweedly has said previously that he does not believe that WorkSafe has a toxic work environment. When the accusations were being aired in 2011 it was Tweedly who faced the media, where in the past it would have been more likely for the Executive Director to address these issues. Bullying accusations are highly embarrassing for WorkSafe as they issue the sdvice on preventing bullying at work, however WorkSafe is only one of the many government bodies in Victoria and in other Australian States that have been accused of this hazard. Other instances of workplace bullying reports have resulted in independent inquiries but not so with WorkSafe. Perhaps Tweedly is right and the working environment in WorkSafe is not toxic, or no more toxic than any other government department or authority. Perhaps the critics should be focussing on the problem of bullying in the workplace rather than the workplace, or the executive management, itself. More…