Kevin Jones

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Kevin Jones with family in Paris 2012

I thought I might follow Wade Needham’s reflections and thoughts with my own. Indulgent? Maybe.

How did you get into Health & Safety?

My first contact with workplace health and safety was as an Administrative Officer in the Victorian Department of Labour in the late 1980s before moving to the Occupational Health and Safety Authority, the precursor to WorkSafe Victoria, in the early 1990s.  I worked in the Major Hazards Branch and was involved in preparing options for the relocation of the Coode Island chemical storage facility before it exploded.

What drives you?

The Health and Safety profession has been notoriously shy in expressing opinions for many reasons including timidity, insecurity and laziness.  This reluctance has contributed to the dominant perspective of H&S as a business nuisance rather than a profitable aid to business.  My frustration with this caused me to write and speak about H&S as an unavoidable and legitimate element of business.

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Avoid government interference, get in first

In occupational health and safety (OHS), there is evidence and then there is evidence. Regardless of the type of evidence, there is not as much as there should be. Many companies and organisations in Australia are required to publicly release annual reports that identify their financial status. Increasingly non-financial criteria, like OHS performance, is being included in these reports but why isn’t this mandatory and why isn’t it of a consistent type? Late on 2019, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) looked at the issue of OHS reporting, with some assistance from EY.

ACSI’s CEO, Louise Davidson illustrates the problem in her Foreword to the report:

“Almost one third of ASX200 companies provide their investors and other stakeholders no information on health and safety performance. For the companies that do provide some information, the disclosure often provides no insight into how many severe incidents occurred…….”

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Take a good hard look at your business and do something about it

The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) published an opinion piece on January 20, 2020 concerning working hours in the medical profession and the risk of mental health and suicide from working excessive hours. It uses the Japanese problem of “karoshi” to illustrate the severity of the workplace risks but it misses a couple of points.

It references the amendments to Victoria’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation that introduced an offence of Industrial Manslaughter but implies that this amendment changes the duty of care expected of employers and changes a worker’s right to a safe and healthy workplace.

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Harm prevention gets short shrift from Aigroup report

The Australian Industry Group has released research into workplace mental health conducted by Griffith University. The AiGroup claims it is a

“… a landmark study into mental health initiatives taken in local workplaces”.

It is far from it. Workplace mental health will only become more important in 2020 with reports due from the Productivity Commission and the Australian Human Rights Commission. Sadly the AiGroup report gives inadequate attention to the prevention of work-related psychological harm even though this has been identified by some Australian mental health experts as the most cost-effective and sustainable business strategy.

The most obvious problem with the report is with this statement:

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2020 OHS plans for Queensland mines

Open cut rock quarry on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Source: zstockphotos

The Queensland Government’s “Safety Reset” of its mining industry was a remarkable achievement in 2019. The government intends to be equally active in occupational health and safety (OHS) in 2020, according to a media release dated 18 January 2020. Below are its “current and upcoming health and safety reforms”:

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