Need to focus on safety first and compliance later

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

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

Increasing Production Performance Through Safety

Ten years ago, Randy DeVaul wrote several articles for the Safety At Work magazine, a precursor to this blog.  His US perspectives were enlightening and he has agreed to contribute occasionally to the SafetyAtWorkBlog.  Below is an article he originally wrote in 2004.

iStock_000020571826_ExtraSmallAs safety professionals, we have all worked at “selling” safety to upper management through budget and fiscal expenditures, worker compensation costs, and other financial approaches.  Meanwhile, our “sell” to production managers has been based on compliance issues with OSHA/MSHA standards.  We have set ourselves up for an uphill battle between production and safety.

Though we missed the boat earlier to integrate safety and production together, the timing now could not be better.  Helping our managers see the integrated picture between safety and production should be our focus with less emphasis on compliance.  Think about it – getting people to do something “because OSHA (or MSHA) says so” is not very motivating.  Helping to see how safe performance also impacts production numbers, employee morale, absenteeism, and productivity schedules in addition to personal quality of life has a much greater effect. Continue reading “Increasing Production Performance Through Safety”

OHS statistics sound good but do not reflect reality

SafetyAtWorkBlog has questioned the veracity of occupational health and safety statements by Victoria’s Assistant Treasurer, Gordon Rich-Phillips, previously.  Early in January 2013, Minister Rich-Phillips stated that:

“Victoria’s workplaces had the safest year on record in 2012…”

Victorian businesses, workers and policy-makers would benefit enormously if the government were to focus on achieving independent accurate data of workplace injury, illness and business costs instead of cherry picking statistics for political gain. Continue reading “OHS statistics sound good but do not reflect reality”

Shorten’s Centre for Workplace Leadership is likely to ignore OHS

For some months Australia’s Workplace Relations Minister  Bill Shorten, has been talking about establishing a Centre for Workplace Leadership. This presents an opportunity for practical progress on OHS but it relies on someone joining the dots of occupational safety, workplace health and productivity – a highly unlikely occurrence.

In December 2012, Shorten started looking for a provider of the Centre, a facility that he described as

“…a flagship initiative of the Gillard Government and will play an important role in supporting our aim to increase workplace level productivity and the quality of jobs by improving leadership capability in Australian workplaces…

He also said that

“This will not be another training company. The Centre will drive a broader Continue reading “Shorten’s Centre for Workplace Leadership is likely to ignore OHS”

Victorian Government refuses to release full costings of OHS laws

FOI PwCThe Victorian Government has repeatedly claimed that new Work Health and Safety laws would cost billions of dollars to introduce. It has justified this political decision with a summary of a report produced by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in April 2012.  SafetyAtWorkBlog applied for the full report under Freedom of Information (FOI)  and was rejected.

The Department of Premier and Cabinet’s FOI Officer indicated that the full report existed but that it was not being released as the FOI Act

“…exempts from disclosure a document that has been prepared by a Minister or on his or her behalf or by an agency for the purpose of submission for consideration by the Cabinet.”

The rejection is difficult to understand as the government had already released a 34 page summary.

SafetyAtWorkBlog has been very critical of the summary report due to the amount of disclaimers, equivocations and selected data sources in the PwC report.  The estimated costs have appeared in discussions about the Work Health and Safety laws in other States so the full analysis of the laws by PwC would be enlightening. It was hoped that the full report would provide additional background and context to discussing the “costs of safety” but that is not to be.

Kevin Jones

Australia’s psychosocial barometer provides strong evidence for policy and corporate change

OnlineMBA.com recently uploaded a video about “The True Cost of a Bad Boss“.  It is a good summary of the spread of negative organisational and employee effects that can result from poor management  poor understanding and poor communication.  It is well worth remembering this spread when determining the best way to manage workplace safety and increase productivity.

Cover of The-Australian-Workplace-Barometer-reportAlthough the video is from the US, there is research evidence to support many of the points raised. In December 2012, Safe Work Australia released  The Australian Workplace Barometer Report On Psychosocial Safety Climate and Worker Health in Australia, a report that has been largely missed by the Australian media. The report says that:

“A standout finding here is that depression costs Australian employers approximately AUD$8 billion per annum as a result of sickness absence and presenteeism and AUD$693 million per annum of this is due to job strain and bullying.” (page 6)

This is a significant impact on Australian business costs and, if one takes the OnlineMBA information concerning bad bosses, Australian bosses may need to undertake a considerable amount of self-analysis when lobbying for red-tape reductions and calling for productivity increases. Continue reading “Australia’s psychosocial barometer provides strong evidence for policy and corporate change”