It is almost impossible for occupational health and safety (OHS) people to stop looking at the world through the risk assessment parameters and hierarchies with which they work every day. The Hierarchy of Control could be applied to the COVID19 pandemic with the important lesson that the elimination of a hazard does not only come from the right purchase but could require months and months of a combination of Administrative Controls, Personal Protective Equipment, and perseverance. This impossibility should not be something that makes OHS professionals shy. It should be embraced and expanded, where possible, beyond the bounds of workplace organisations to societal design and change.
Michael Quinlan has recently written about a different investigative process that could be directly applied to the management of disasters, including COVID19. His research on Ten Pathways to Death and Disaster has been popping up in conferences, books and public speaking, including the OHS advocacy of Dr Gerry Ayers of the CFMEU, and has rarely been more timely.
Many companies operate wellness programs at work. Some of these claim to reduce the likelihood of work-related injury or ill health. Others are aimed at reducing chronic health risks such as obesity, heart disease and more. A recent book from the United States encourages us to be sceptical of such programs and ask about employers’ purposes in introducing such programs. The book is called “Calling Bullshit – The Art of Scepticism in a Data-Driven World” and offers important insights beyond workplace wellness.
Australian farm safety received several boosts last week. FarmSafe Australia released new report on agricultural injury and fatality trends. The Victorian Government gave the Victorian Farmers Federation more money to fund farm safety inspectors, again. And the Agriculture Minister established a Farm Safety Council of the usual agricultural groups. It is hard not to take many of these farm safety activities as indications of insanity by doing the same thing but expecting different results.
SafetyAtWorkBlog tries to include links to original data and reports wherever possible. Last week the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released its 2020 data insights report. There is a lot in it, and some relates to workplace risks. Perhaps the most useful section is the chapter of Social Determinants of Health (SDH). For those readers for whom this is a new concept, this chapter is obligatory reading.
SDH is crucial to understanding how occupational health and safety (OHS) risks fit with non-work, or social, activities, government policy decisions and economic pressures. The beauty of the AIHW take on SDH is that it based on Australian data.
Then current coronavirus pandemic has disrupted workplaces around the world with those most effected being low socioeconomic sectors, including those working on a casual basis or in precarious, gig occupations. Last week the Victorian Government received the final report from its Inquiry into the Victorian On-Demand Workforce. This report is likely to be crucial in assisting the government to develop a safe and healthy strategy for the post-pandemic world of work.