Long commute times need to be factored into OHS structures

The mainstream media reported on the release of new demographic statistics from the latest HILDA survey (Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia). Most of the attention is on the increasing commuting times to and from work in the urban centres. Traffic is not usually an occupational health and safety (OHS) issue but traffic congestion reduces the effectiveness of our social recuperation and recovery structures and work/life balance initiatives.

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Safety remains a muddle in Australia’s trucking industry

SafetyAtWorkBlog believes the fact that commercial vehicles are also workplaces remains under-utilised in Australia. There are hints that this position is shared by others and that the analysis of occupational health and safety (OHS) in the transport sector is maturing. An Issues Paper released in May 2019 by the Productivity Commission (PC) as party of the review of the 2009 National Transport Regulatory Reform program looks at potential safety outcomes.

In each of the sectors within the reform program – heavy vehicles, rail and maritime – safety improvements, enhancements and improvements were expected. The PC accepts the multidisciplinary and multi-factorial elements of OHS:

“…. the national laws and regulators are only one influence on safety outcomes. The multiplicity of influences on safety outcomes raises challenges for measurement of the contribution of the national system to any changes in safety outcomes since the system was introduced. The Commission envisages that the direct net benefits from safety related reforms must be assessed by the use of simple methods such as benchmarking (including to other countries) and other descriptive analyses. For example, Hassall (2014) estimates the accident rate (broken down by accident severity) per 100 million kilometres.”

page 12

(Given that the PC has a separate inquiry into mental health, it will be interesting to see if this perspective is consistent across different sectors)

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Hopefully prevention of mental injuries at work will emerge in this Royal Commission

LtoR: Professor Bernadette McSherry, Prof. Allan Fels, Penny Arnytage, Dr Alex Cockram

The first week of media coverage of Victoria’s Royal Commission into Mental Health is very thin on the roles and impacts of workplaces and work activities on people’s mental health, but it is part of the conversation.

The Public Hearings on July 4-5 had Prevention and Early Intervention as their theme. Prevention as occupational health and safety (OHS) people would apply was mostly absent. Prevention, in OHS terms, is usually about the elimination of a risk or hazard whereas the impression from the discussion in the Royal Commission over the last few days is that mental health is something that appears, strikes an individual (with ripples to relatives), is treated and a new psychological normal, a functional/social normal is established. Analysis of the social, occupational and environmental precursors, elements that OHS investigations are obliged to consider, seems missing, at the moment.

According to the Commission’s transcript Chair Penny Armytage said on July 2, 2019:

“We start these hearings with a wide lens. Not in hospitals or clinics, but in our homes, our sporting fields and our workplaces.”

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OHS largely overlooked in National Outlook Report

The National Australia Bank and the CSIRO have released their National Outlook Report for 2019. It should be no surprise that the only mention of occupational health and safety (OHS) in this report is in relation to “employee wellbeing” – reflecting the current corporate approach to OHS in Australia. The discussion on employee wellbeing in this report is selective and could have been stronger in its recommendations for change.

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New OHS infringement notices for WorkSafe Victoria, according to Budget Papers

The Victorian Government released its State Budget on May 27, 2019. The Budget Papers include some references to occupational health and safety (OHS).

Infringement Notices

The Budget Papers state that new infringement notices will be available for WorkSafe Victoria to use.

“Workplace safety will be improved through the introduction of infringement notices for a range of occupational health and safety offences, adding to the suite of compliance and enforcement tools available to WorkSafe Victoria.”

page 88 – Budget Paper 3 – Service Delivery
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