Managing occupational health and safety (OHS) is most successful when it considers a range of perspectives or disciplines in identifying practicable solutions. Books are often successful in a similar multidisciplinary way but it is becoming rarer for books to contain a collection of perspectives. A new book has been published on Safety Culture which matches this multidisciplinary approach.
Rumours of a TV report on the increasing hazards of silicosis have floated around for a week or so. On October 10 2018, the show appeared on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s 7.30 program. But the story is much bigger than the ten minutes or so on that program.
The focus is understandably on silica but perhaps that is too specific. Maybe the issue of dust, in general, needs more attention.
Occupational health and safety (OHS) related decisions are made on the state of knowledge about hazards and it is up to OHS people to make sure the state of knowledge is at its best so that the best decisions can be made. But what do you do if the state of knowledge on a hazard seems to be made purposely uncertain and that uncertainty is leading to the status quo, which also happens to provide a huge income for the owner of the product creating the hazard.
This seems to be a situation at the moment in Australia in relation to the use of the weedkiller, glyphosate, marketed heavily by the global chemical company, Monsanto. The alleged corruption of data on which OHS people and workers base their safety decisions was perhaps one of the most disturbing elements of the recent ABC Four Corners program on the chemical (
Many companies have bloated workplace procedures. Many of these seem to involve workplace health and safety. Some people blame this on a bureaucracy designed in the olden times by someone, that somehow still exists and is maintained by someone or some process that no one sees or knows. Some prominent Australian researchers have looked into this issue and have written about “safety clutter”* which they say is:
“…the accumulation of safety procedures, documents, roles, and activities that are performed in the name of safety, but do not contribute to the safety of operational work.”.”
Recently the 20th anniversary of the Esso Longford disaster was commemorated in Victoria. Coinciding with this anniversary was the release of a book about the disaster and its personal aftermath, Workers’ Inferno, written by Ramsina Lee.
This book has been in development for many, many years and the Lee’s writing talent is on display in the structure of the book and the stories within. These stories largely linear But the multiple strands allow Lee to jump from one to the other providing a variety tone.