Hopkins challenges safety culture advocates to look at structure

One of the major influencers on occupational health and safety (OHS) management in Australian has been Andrew Hopkins. His influence comes from a combination of being outside the formal OHS profession and establishing a platform that is inclusive of information from a range of sources. In short he is a sociologist.

Hopkins’ latest book has just been released. “Organising for Safety – How structure creates culture” is a radical departure to his previous books about organisational culture. Here Hopkins questions whether cultural change is the gradual spreading of new ideas and instead proposes that

“… the culture of an organisation is determined to a large extent by its organisational structure.”

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He also mentions power, a concept rarely discussed in OHS and almost entirely left to exist in sociology (Oh, the need for more Humanities study!). Power pops up in Human Resources but not to the same extent.

Hopkins also refers to, and creates, organisational charts that were in place at the time of a disaster and then to the reorganised structures after the disasters. Hopkins discusses how those new structures are in direct response to the new understanding of risk from the CEOs and Boards.

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Where’s the harm in bullying?

The West Australian Government has released its the report on its Ministerial Review of the State Industrial Relations System. There are a few interesting bits that relate to occupational health and safety (OHS) and bullying.

The Fair Work Commission has been able to accept applications to stop workplace bullying for a few years now. Western Australia’s State system will soon also allow this, if the Government accepts the recommendations, but workplace bullying is a little different from the OHS approach. The report says:

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Release of authoritative quad bike safety report is still not enough for the Federal Minister

On April 6 2018 Australia’s Assistant Treasurer Stuart Robert released the report into Quad Bike safety prepared by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC). The report makes unsurprising safety recommendations, many of these have been coming for years. The surprise is the Minister’s decision to begin another round of consultation:

“The Government is inviting stakeholders to review and comment on the ACCC’s recommended safety standard.”

The previous paragraph in the Minister’s press statement acknowledged:

“Extensive consultation has been undertaken including with technical experts, farmers, the recreational and tourism sector, consumer groups, health and medical experts, industry and government bodies. The majority of stakeholders support a new mandatory safety standard. The ACCC’s report highlights how these safety measures including installing an operator protection device can significantly reduce the frequency and severity of injuries, particularly from rollover incidents”

An indication of the level of “extensive consultation” can be seen through the process the ACCC has been running since at least November 2017. The only possible reason for this extraordinary decision is the political desire to release the ACCC report prior to the Federal Election, only just announced as occurring on May 18, 2019.

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What was overlooked during Budget week

Last week the Australian media was dominated by discussions on the Federal Budget and it being the precursor to a Federal Election in May 2019. But there were several actions in the few scheduled days of Parliament which relate to occupational health and safety (OHS). Below is a summary of some of them.

Labour Hire

In support of the Morrison Government Budget, Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations, Kelly O’Dwyer, issued a media release stating that in response to Migrant Workers Taskforce Report, the Government (should it be re-elected, in reality) will establish:

“….a National Labour Hire Registration Scheme to ensure compliance and transparency in the labour hire industry in high-risk sectors;”

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Labour Hire licencing scheme to be rolled out in Victoria

Labour Hire Authority Commissioner, Steve Dargavel,

Labour Hire is almost always seen in purely commercial terms of salaries, business costs, production rates, labour availability, migrant workers, and more. Occupational health and safety (OHS) is often seen as an add-on, a term that is included in a media story because it should be, not because the author has really thought about it or sees OHS as legitimate.

Australian States are beginning to introduce certification/regulations schemes for the Labour Hire industry as a result of the exposure of workplace abuses in this labour supply process. Not all States though. Queensland has one that has been running a year or so, Victoria’s is open for registration applications at the end of April 2019 and full operation before the end of 2019; South Australia began its system, but an election changed the political priorities and that scheme is in limbo. The other States are unclear on their preferences, but it is clear that there will be no national labour hire scheme.

Victoria’s Labour Hire Authority (LHA) Commissioner, Steve Dargavel, has just started his roadshow for explaining what the regulations are all about, how to apply, what it will mean and what it will cost. Importantly OHS and workers’ compensation are integral parts of the scheme and therefore part of what the LHA Inspectors will be looking at and enforcing.

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