Keep away from Leadership and start to progress

Lately I have been thinking a lot about Leadership and how it dominates, and unchallenged, how occupational health and safety is managed in Australia. Of the three OHS/business books I bought this week, one included a page about Leadership and how we should move away from it.

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New perspectives can perpetuate the old

An article garnering some attention on LinkedIn (Yeah, I know, the Facebook for corporate self-promotion) has called for a different path to reducing occupational health and safety injuries. “A new view of safety culture measurement” is written by safe365’s cofounder Nathan Hight. As with most articles on the Internet, the primary aim is marketing or selling (this blog is a good example); in this case he is promoting an upcoming webinar. He writes:

“In order to quantify and manage the impacts of behaviour and attitudinal-based attributes in safety, we need a more consistent approach to both the primary measurement, but also the ongoing assessment of progress and performance.”

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The OHS context is almost missed as EAP bodies scrap

The increased interest in preventing and managing psychosocial hazards at work should draw more attention to a service that many employers rely on to handle this issue: Employee Assistance Providers (EAPs).

Recently, The Age newspaper ran an article called “Employers spruik workplace wellbeing services. But who is picking up the phone?” (paywalled). The hard copy article was “Doubts raised on workplace wellbeing services”. Both articles reported on EAP services that are not always being provided by qualified clinical psychologists, as these services used to be.

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Broadening the OHS perspective

Over the last decade, the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession has been challenged by a new perspective on OHS and its professional interaction with it. Safety Differently, Safety II or some other variation are important and intriguing variations, but they seem to remain confined to the workplace, the obligations of the person conducting a business or undertaking, and/or the employer/employee relationship. The interaction of work and non-work receives less attention than it deserves.

Many OHS professionals bemoan OHS’ confinement to managerial silos but continue to operate within their own self-imposed silo. One way for OHS to progress and to remain current and relevant is to look more broadly at the societal pressures under which they work and how their employees or clients make OHS decisions. Some recent non-OHS books and concepts may help.

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Quad Bike Safety Standard compliance and media accuracy

It is reasonable to claim that the quad bike safety controversy has been resolved in Australia through the intervention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the imposition of a national safety standard. However, the occupational health and safety (OHS) message continues to be murkier than necessary when quad bikes are advertised in some of the agricultural media without critical safety devices.

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The fluctuating grey zone of compliance

The occupational health and safety (OHS) profession operates within the legislative context of “so far as is reasonably practicable“, that band of compliance, that non-prescriptive, performance-based flexibility offered to employers to encourage them to provide safe and healthy workplaces. It could be said that OHS was easier forty years ago because the compliance band was thinner, and in some cases, compliance was determined by specialist OHS inspectors on the day of the visit.

Today, that compliance band fluctuates and can be affected by community values and expectations, as shown in a recent discussion about sexual harassment at Australia’s Fair Work Commission.

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Is Business really a punching bag?

Occupational health and safety (OHS) cannot afford to be anti-business. No business = no jobs = no need for OHS. And business groups should not be anti-OHS, yet it often feels that they are. A recent opinion piece by Bran Black of the Business Council of Australia argues that the success of businesses in Australia is central the economy. This is typical of the type of articles that appear in the business-friendly media as part of “soft” lobbying of the federal government prior to the May Budget.

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