The evidence on occupational lung diseases remains inadequate

Workplace injury statistics are always less than reality as they are based on the number of workers’ compensation claims lodged with occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators or insurance agents.  The nature of occupational illnesses is that there may be many years before their presence is physically identified making them more contestable by insurers and less likely to appear in compensation data.  The frustration with this lack of data was voiced on November 13 2017 in an article in the Medical Journal of Australia (not publicly available).

A summary of the research article includes this alarming statistic:

“Occupational exposures are an important determinant of respiratory health. International estimates note that about 15% of adult-onset asthma, 15% of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 10–30% of lung cancer may be attributable to hazardous occupational exposures.”

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What do Weinstein, Spacey and others have to do with OHS?

“Then I went, ‘Oh hang on, I’ve normalised so much of this as part of my industry…. This last three months has really made us all take a long hard look at what we have even let ourselves think is acceptable.” – Sacha Horler

Such a statement is familiar to those working in the field of occupational health and safety (OHS).  This normalisation, or habituation, has underpinned much of the discussion of what builds a safety culture – “the way things are done round here”.  As a result of revelations and accusations pertaining to

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Improve the profession by improving the professionals

The occupational safety profession (OHS) in Australia is often described as being populated by older white males, as being dull and ill-informed.  This perception has generated offshoots such as Women in Safety and Health, and Young Safety Professionals (YSP) with similar actions occurring in many other professions. It is easier than ever to develop professional groups that better address one’s needs but this can miss out on opportunities to change those older white males who are prepared to listen and learn.

These subgroups can often be more innovative than the larger profession events, partly because they are smaller, but also because their audience has different expectations and capacities. Recently

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Latest safety culture report on construction has lessons for all

In 2012, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government undertook a review of safety in its construction industry and produced a report called “Getting Home Safely“. In early 2017, the Government contracted RMIT University to review the construction sector’s work health and safety culture in the aftermath of the 2012 report and government actions since them.   The September 2017 report was only recently made public.

The RMIT University report includes a very good and super-current discussion about safety culture and safety climate but its findings are of limited help in improving OHS performance in the construction sector.

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Look to the source of workplace conflict, exploitation and injustice

Occupational health and safety advocates are pushing for safety management and strategies to refocus on people by talking about “people-centric” approaches and recalibrating legislation to re-emphasise prevention.  This push parallels society’s frustration with political strategies that favour big business, the under-investment in education and health care systems and companies that announce record profits at the same time as sacking staff.  That frustration is becoming accepted by political parties that are starting to apply more people-centric policies or by countries and States that are appointing representatives from outside the mainstream political organisations.

At a closing event for National Safe Work Month on 1 November 2017, WorkSafe Victoria’s CEO, 

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