Don’t mention profit

The primacy of profit to employers is an accepted truth. However, the size of the profit and the pathway to those profits are not absolutes, and it is in this latter context that occupational health and safety (OHS) lives.

Even though profit is a business truth, it is often a word that business representatives seem to fear. They speak of profit through synonyms like “productivity” and “competitiveness”. An example of this timidity or wariness was displayed recently by prominent businessman Michael Angwin in an opinion piece in the Australian Financial Review (paywalled) that contained many other cautious words of business jargon. Angwin misses the harm to workers and others generated by the world as he sees it.

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Who’s to blame?

All occupational health and safety (OHS) advocates should be reading the work of Jordan Barab. His latest article on “blaming the workers” for their own incidents is a great example of his writing. The article also illustrates one of the things about OHS that really gets up the noses of employers – if we don’t blame the workers, we have to blame the employers. An Australian answer to the situation would be Yeah, Nah.

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Old working hours concepts persist as subtext in new debates

One of the most contentious occupational health and safety (OHS) elements of industrial relations negotiations is the issue of working hours. And one of the most effective ways to prevent physical and psychological harm is by talking about working hours. The evidence for harm from excessive and often unpaid hours is clear, but some assumptions crop up in the debate every so often.

Two recent books, one by David Graeber & David Wengrow and another by Daniel Susskind, offer reminders of these issues and are useful adjuncts to the Australian research on precarious work by Michael Quinlan, Phillip Bohle and others. ( A Guardian review of Graeber & Wengrow is available here with one from The Atlantic here, Susskind here and here)

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Curious economic modelling on OHS

During October’s National Safe Work Month, Safe Work Australia released an important evaluation of the economics of occupational health and safety (OHS). The report, prepared by Deloitte, received minimal attention from the mainstream media who was more focussed on Treasurer Jim Chalmers‘ first national budget statement.

The timing of the report’s release seems unfortunate as work health and safety was almost totally absent from the Treasurer’s budget papers. It is doubly unfortunate as the information in the report focuses so much on the national economic context of managing OHS. The data and modelling may be fresh, but all it seems to achieve is to reinforce that managing work health and safety is important and that not doing so is expensive and presents missed opportunities. We’ve known this for decades from various extensive reports from the Productivity Commission and the Industry Commission before that.

SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to put some questions to Safe Work Australia’s Director, Data Analysis, Phillip Wise.

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When exemplars are far from

Extensive multinational auditing and consulting firms have been hammered for the last few years over the potential conflict of both auditing and advising the same companies and a toxic workplace culture. Most companies will not be able to afford these consultants’ prices, but the conduct of the large companies, the “corporate leaders”, affects every business by setting the standards. The influence of these large companies over public (and work health and safety) policy should also be noted and is being reviewed by some governments.

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Lymph v Blood – OHS at the Jobs & Skills Summit

If Industrial Relations is the lifeblood of the economy and the nation, then Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) is the lymphatic system, a less well-known supplementary system without which blood circulation fails and the body stops working.

Australia’s Job and Skills Summit that has just concluded focused on the blood. Media analysis offered mixed interpretations. The event was politically stage-managed with many agenda items pre-prepared for the Summit to confirm, but it was not a worthless gabfest, as some (who chose not to attend) have asserted. On the matter of occupational health and safety, there was one new initiative but most of the OHS change, if any, is now more likely to come through the (wellbeing) budget in October.

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The man on the stair who isn’t really there

On August 26 2022, Australia’s Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Tony Burke, spoke at a union conference.  This is not an unusual event for Ministers, but the timing of Burke’s address was less than a week before a major Jobs and Skills Summit – the hottest political event in town at the moment.  The transcript of the speech provides clues and hints as to how occupational health and safety (OHS) may or may not be discussed.

There is an early indication that safe workplaces are important (heart skips a beat), but then it seems shunted to the side.  Burke said:

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