The review of Australia’s OHS laws starts

In 19 February 2018, Safe Work Australia (SWA) “launched” the independent review of Australia’s Work Health and Safety laws under former Executive Director of SafeWorkSA, Marie Boland.  SWA has released a 49-page discussion paper, a summary and a list of questions.  Below is an initial response to some of those questions.

What are your views on the effectiveness of the three-tiered approach – model WHS Act supported by model WHS Regulations and model WHS Codes – to achieve the object of the model WHS laws?

The structure works well, when business owners know of the relevant documents.

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Infographics still need some explanation

Infographics have become a popular format for distributing information about occupational health and safety (OHS) and other topics but they are often seen as a shortcut in consultation.  They can be visually engaging but are often too shallow as the writers and designers try to depict safety data in the simplest manner.  Terminology also needs to be consistent so that readability is most effective.

Recently Safe Work Australia produced

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New workplace mental health clinical guidelines provide clarity

In 2016, a survey of General Practitioners (GPs) conducted by Monash University identified that GPs frequently struggled with patients involved with workers compensation and that mental illnesses were particularly problematic.

In January 2018 Monash University, with the support of major institutions and safety

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“so we know we’ve had laws, but why haven’t we had change?”

Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, has been prominent in recent seminars about sexual harassment, particularly in the entertainment industry.  In February 2018, Jenkins spoke at a seminar in Melbourne hosted by Screen Producers  Australia and provided strong advice on how businesses can control sexual harassment.

Jenkins began her presentation with an uncomfortable reminder that business has been lax in addressing unlawful workplace behaviour.

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Embrace the irrational

In 2008 the brothers Brafman wrote “Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior“.  They tell the story of Ori Brafman being told, on his first day in his MBA course in Tel Aviv in the 1980s, that

“People aren”t rational.”

In my 1990s tertiary course into OHS Risk Management, we were still being referred to the 1965 book, “The Rational Manager“.  Occupational health and safety (OHS) seems to still be based on an assumption of rationality in OHS management systems, decision-making and working yet it does not take too much exposure to the reality of work to understand that we must anticipate irrationality.

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