Selective duty of care being applied by the Australian Government

Australia’s work health and safety (WHS) laws confirmed the modern approach to workplace safety legislation and compliance where workers and businesses are responsible for their own safety and the safety of others who may be affected by the work.  The obligations to others existed before the latest WHS law reforms but it was not widely enforced.  The

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What does the Prime Minister’s criticism of banking culture mean for OHS?

Some of Australia’s mainstream media reported on Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull‘s admonishment of the banking sector on April 6 2016.  He accused them of having an unhealthy culture, reflecting a general and growing public dissatisfaction with large financial institutions, insurance companies and other corporations.

Given that the dominant perspective on occupational health and safety (OHS), at the moment, is the importance of an organisational culture that values workplace safety, it is worth looking at Prime Minister Turnbull’s words and those of prominent executives and financial regulators recently reported in the mainstream press.

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Australia’s ABCC argument is not about safety

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is on a pathway to an election.  On March 21 2016, the Prime Minister wrote to the Governor-General to continue a convoluted process sparked by the Senate’s refusal to pass laws that will allow the reintroduction of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).  One of the justifications for the need to pass the laws is to improve workplace safety, as in the excerpt below for the Prime Minsiter’s letter.  This position is unjustified.

Turnbull safety GG

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Trade Union Royal Commission shows exploitation of OHS

cover of V1-IntroductionIn January 2015, this blog said of Australia’s Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption (TURC):

“Workplace safety has not been the focus of this Royal Commission but it is one of its victims”.

The Royal Commission’s final report was released on 30 December 2015, and it is time to look at the mentions of occupational health and safety (OHS), at least in Volume 1, and see how processes, decisions and reporting in the safety sector may change.

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Talking about safety – old skills in new ways

Australia’s latest Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, has a strong background in technology investment and is urging the country to embrace innovation.  This has generated a focus on information technology start-ups but it may also create opportunities for occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals, if they are willing to change.

There has been a quick growth in

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Zero Harm is dead, long live ……whatever comes next

Zero Harm was an enormously popular motivational aim for OHS.  It originated as a response in some large organisations where safety performance was plateauing and who felt that they had achieved as much as they could in redesigning work and improving physical safety.  The plateauing led to frustration and a reassessment of safety practices.  The remaining variable was seen to be the worker and so slogans were instigated to increase the care (or mindfulness) of workers.

However, this assessment seems to have taken the traditional, and shallow, approach.  One variable is, of course the worker but the assessors failed to see that the organisational structure and operations were, or should be, variable too.  In the words of the current Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, this variability, this adaptability, could lead to innovation, economic growth and increased sustainability.

The promotion of the zero harm approach to safety could be seen as a safety dead-end and an indication that organisations were fixed on only seeing the dead-end.  Safety thinkers, and there are a few, offered ways out of the dead-end by thinking differently about what we know.

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