What is a safety professional and what do they do?

David Provan recently provided access to one of his research papers through LinkedIn while it is open. The paper is a literature review of the factors shaping the role of a safety professional.  It is a difficult and confusing read until one reaches the Conclusion.  This is not Provan’s fault but is an indication of the confusing and conflicting roles, actions, obligations and qualifications of the occupational health and safety (OHS) professional revealed by the research literature.

However, the Conclusion provides a good summary of all the literature with some useful strategies to improve the OHS conversation.

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Important research into domestic violence strengthens OHS context

It is useful to consider corporate wellness and mental wellbeing programs in the context of work-related suicides.  By considering what many consider a worst-case scenario, the effectiveness of these programs can be tested.  The increased attention on domestic violence and its relationship to work over the last few years in Australia can play a similar role. New research on “intimate partner violence” provides mental health scenarios for which safety professionals need to be prepared. Continue reading “Important research into domestic violence strengthens OHS context”

Road safety needs a systems approach to investigations

A company vehicle is a workplace.  This is not a radical statement, or shouldn’t be.  A worker driving the company vehicle is at work, transporting themselves or some goods somewhere as part of the work process. Yet most traffic accidents in Australia are not assessed to determine whether they are work-related and action is rarely taken by the occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators who seem comfortable with their secondary information gathering role in traffic accidents.

With the failure of the trade union movement’s efforts to maintain the existence of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, others are stepping up pressure on Australia’s government to address some traffic accidents as work-related. And there is some important local independent research that seems to support this push.

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Insurer-led rehabilitation case management does not work

On the eve of a Return-to-Work symposium in Hobart, Alex Collie, challenged the a seminar audience, as all good speakers should.  His analysis of research data has found the following confronting information:

  • “main service delivery mechanism (case management) is ineffective at best, harmful at worst,
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New report provides important data on occupational health

A recent report from the UK Society of Occupational Medicine highlights several issues of note to the occupational health and safety (OHS) professional. But it is also worth looking at the SOM’s media release.

As well as offering financial costs and benefits of good occupational health management the full report also contextualises occupational health:

“The report cites a survey of 1,000 UK employers in which respondents gave their most common reasons to spend on health and wellbeing initiatives as: a motivated and healthy workforce is more productive (41%); to attract and retain staff (25%); to be perceived as a caring employer that takes duty of care requirements seriously (21%). Meanwhile, a survey of 1,000 employees found that they were more likely to choose an employer who took employee health and wellbeing seriously (66%) and would feel they have a duty to work harder for such an employer (43%). The survey results are reflective of the intangible as well as tangible benefits of occupational health.”

Continue reading “New report provides important data on occupational health”

OHS and Tim White

The latest in our series of profiles on researchers who are involved with occupational health and safety research is Dr Tim White.  He holds the degrees of Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) and Doctor of Philosophy from the University of New South Wales (UNSW). His most recent appointment was as Lecturer and Researcher in Mechanical Design at UNSW.

After 10 years of working casually as a consultant while also holding salaried positions, Dr White founded Forensic Mechanical Engineers in 2013 and now works full time as a forensic engineer and expert witness. He is based in Bathurst, NSW but travels extensively for work, often flying himself to regional locations.

What attracted you to looking at workplace health and safety? Did you fall into it or always have an interest?

I feel like I just fell into it, although now that I look back, I suppose that my career progression was reasonably intuitive. A farming background prior to my first engineering degree (and subsequent time in industry) meant that I was never going  to be content doing the same thing as most of my peers. Although it was not a main consideration at the time, the PhD and progression into academia was what ultimately equipped me with the ability to now work flexibly in a role where I feel as though I am – clichés aside – doing something interesting as well as making a difference.

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Workplace mindfulness? The jury is still out

At a well-attended La Trobe University alumni seminar in May 2017, researchers discussed the reality and the hype surrounding mindfulness. They explained the varieties of mindfulness, the clinic research history over the last four decades and the personal advantages of living mindfully. However in the workplace and organisational context, they said that there was insufficient evidence to show benefits from workplace mindfulness in this “emerging area of research”.

The seminar was hosted by Latrobe University with three speakers

Many mindfulness advocates have developed programs that they claim can offer substantial benefits to workplaces by increasing productivity and reducing injury and illness, primarily, by change the behaviours and attitudes of employees.  This individual approach is often collated into a workplace and promoted as an organisational opportunity.  But the La Trobe researchers mentioned that this is a very recent perspective.

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Research into “gross under-reporting” of illness and injuries

There has been a lot of discussion recently about occupational health and safety (OHS) data.  This article is another because the issue is critical for understanding OHS, for planning for the future and managing productivity.

On May 1 2017, the University of South Australia issued a media release about research by Amy Zadow.  It opened with the following

“Accidents leading to work injuries cost an estimated $57 billion in Australia and new research from the University of South Australia shows workplaces are unlikely to be adequately addressing injury prevention because management decisions are informed by inaccurate data.”

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Trade unions offer alternative, more accurate(?) workplace death statistics

The Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) indirectly acknowledged the ILO theme for World Day for Safety and Health at Work in its media release for International Workers Memorial Day 2017.  The ILO was calling for more, and better, data on workplace injuries and illnesses.  VTHC questioned the official workplace fatality numbers issued by the government.  It stated:

“A VTHC analysis shows that in 2016-17 over 200 Victorians died as a direct result of Workplace injury or illness, although the government’s official tally for the year is just 26.”

This disparity needs to be discussed across jurisdictions because occupational health and safety (OHS) data has always been incomplete, a fact acknowledged by many government inquiries in Australia for many years.  

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