Workers Memorial Day ceremony, industrial manslaughter and red tape

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ACTU President Ged Kearney addresses the event. (image: VTHC)

The President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Ged Kearney, spoke briefly at the Workers Memorial Day ceremony in Melbourne Victoria on 29 April 2013.  Kearney reiterated the call for industrial manslaughter laws in Australia echoing the statements by the ACTU’s Michael Borowick yesterday and the ACTU media release. Continue reading “Workers Memorial Day ceremony, industrial manslaughter and red tape”

Safety, business costs and regulation

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On the 28 April edition of the ABC TV show, Insiders, Gerard Henderson displayed a common misunderstanding about the role and existence of regulations.  In discussing the childcare industry Henderson,  Executive Director of the Sydney Institute, said that regulations always increase business costs, as if regulations are the start of a process when regulations are almost always a reaction to a hazard, an abuse, an exploitation or a risk.

Business leaders seem to be incapable of understanding that they have the  power to reduce what they see as OHS red tape by changing their behaviours, perhaps by embracing and implementing safety leadership.

Many politicians and commentators have linked recent factory explosions and collapses around the World Day for Safety and Health at Work on 28 April.   Continue reading “Safety, business costs and regulation”

An OHS look at the Liberal Party’s policy document

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Following on from a look at the workplace safety-related elements of the current policy document of the Australian Labor Party, it is the Liberal Party of Australia‘s turn.

PressPhoto tony abbott
Liberal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott

The Liberals, currently lead by Tony Abbott, are the Australian equivalent of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom and the Republicans in the United States and follow many of the free market principles that support capitalism. In terms of workplace safety, commitments are less obvious than those from the Left side of politics.  Often workplace safety is wrapped in other concepts and there is an expectation that benefits to workers will somehow flow on from those benefits granted to employers and business, benefits frequently termed as part of productivity.

The Liberal’s policy document entitled: Our Plan, Real Solutions for All Australians lists the following productivity improvements: Continue reading “An OHS look at the Liberal Party’s policy document”

Need to focus on safety first and compliance later

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Several years ago, a WorkSafe Victorian executive saw “reasonably practicable” as a major legal advantage in safety regulation. It is of legal benefit, but does it make workplaces safer? Does it make it easier to manage workplace safety? In this time of economic austerity and the pursuit of red tape reductions, can the “reasonably practicable” elements of Australia safety law be an impediment to safety management?

Cover of SAW News Oz 089 rawEmployers have always seen legislative compliance as the equivalent of being safe. This position seems sensible because if the safety police of the OHS regulator leave you alone after a site visit and say you are compliant, your workplace must be safe. The safety experts have visited and found nothing wrong, it is logical to then assume safety.

Here’s a radical thought – compliance ≠ safety. Never has and never will.

This will be a shock for many businesses, and even a shock for many OHS regulators, because so much workplace safety strategy is based a flawed logic that “if I comply with workplace safety laws, I am safe”. Regardless of OHS laws, there is a moral social duty to look after the safety and welfare of one’s workers and oneself. When values become codified in law, the law becomes the value, and the moral duty becomes historical.

Continue reading “Need to focus on safety first and compliance later”

Double your money, invest in OHS

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The corporate wellness advocates have been able to estimate the return-on-investment (ROI) for their programs but there has been little research on the return-on-prevention, until recently. In 2012 the International Social Security Association (ISSA) determined that, in microeconomic terms,

“…there are benefits resulting from investment in occupational safety and health… with the results offering a Return on Prevention [ROP] ratio of 2.2.”

This means that for every one dollar spent per employee per year the potential return is 2.2 dollars.

The report also found that OHS provides, amongst other benefits:

  • Better corporate image
  • Increased employee motivation and satisfaction, and
  • Prevention of disruptions.

But why bother costing harm prevention when there is already a legislative requirement to provide safe and healthy workplaces? Such a question usually comes from those whose understanding of OHS is principally compliance and who believe compliance equals safety.

The calculation of ROP, in the ISSA report at least, counters the belief that safety is always a cost with no economic benefit to the company. A positive ROP provides an opportunity to actively participate in the economic debate over productivity and, in some countries, austerity.

Kevin Jones