New OHS resources on workplace bullying

The Australian Capital Territory has released a package of new OHS material on workplace bullying.  The package includes

  • “advice on responsibilities under the Work Safety Act 2008 with regard to bullying
  • a Checklist for Employers
  • Guidance on how to take a risk management approach to workplace bullying, as is required by the Work Safety Act 2008
  • Guidance on how to implement a complete Complaint Resolution process in respect of workplace bullying
  • two new training programs available from the Office of the Work Safety Commissioner – Workplace Bullying Awareness for workers and Prevention and Management of Workplace Bullying for more senior staff Continue reading “New OHS resources on workplace bullying”

Unsafe worker gets his job back

The front page story in the The Australian newspaper has generated many emails and phone calls to SafetyAtWorkBlog from irate safety professionals.

The nub of the story is that Fair Work Australia has reinstated a worker who was sacked because of consistently unsafe work practices.

It is important to remember that the decision by Fair Work Australia is undertaken under the Fair Work Act 2009 and not occupational health and safety regulations.  In the case of Norske Skog Paper Mills (Australia) Ltd the relevant OHS legislation would have been New South Wales.

The story revolves around the dismissal of an employee not the unsafe actions of that worker. Continue reading “Unsafe worker gets his job back”

Small business OHS shortcomings

The home insulation debate in Australia is fragmenting.  Workplace safety is one of the chunks of debate heading in an unknown direction (political safety goggles anyone?)  The Australian newspaper included an article on 19 February 2010 that, although coming from the insulation sector, illustrates a dominant misunderstanding by small businesses.

The proprietor has run many businesses in a range of industries but he clearly has little understanding of his OHS obligations as he denies any responsibility for the death Matthew Fuller, an employee of the firm he contracted to undertake insulation installations, QHI Installations.  The proprietor states the reason is that “we did not employ him.”   Continue reading “Small business OHS shortcomings”

Forklift incident leads to amputated foot and $60,000 fine

All workplace incidents result from a combination of actions and circumstances that come together at a specific point in time that can result in injury or damage.  WorkSafe Victoria reported on 17 February 2010 about a company that was successfully prosecuted, and fined $A60,000, after a worker had his foot crushed under a forklift.  The worker’s foot was later amputated.

Below is a summary of the incident taken from a WorkSafe media release (not yet available online):

“A Kilsyth company was convicted and fined $60,000 on Monday after a forklift driven by a 22-year-old man tipped over, crushing his foot which was later amputated.

The worker was not licensed to drive a forklift – nor was he wearing a seatbelt when the forklift tipped in December 2008. Continue reading “Forklift incident leads to amputated foot and $60,000 fine”

Reviewing Today Tonight’s insulation exclusive

As an example of “tabloid TV” the Today Tonight (TT) report broadcast on 17 February 2010 concerning children assisting workers to install insulation, was very good.  It probably benefited from my own appearances remaining brief.

The topicality of a story on the home insulation industry could not have been higher yesterday as a Senate inquiry into the Australian Government’s environment and job creation scheme held hearings in Melbourne.  TT led its show with the scandalous report.

The video of a young boy handling large bags of insulation on a roof is disturbing; the unprotected handling of the insulation material by the young boy is similar.  That the children were allowed to be on the roof by the homeowner and parents is a parental supervision issue and outside the scope of this blog.  That the workers allowed them to be present and did not tell the children to get down is more disturbing and a clear breach of the workers’ OHS obligations. Continue reading “Reviewing Today Tonight’s insulation exclusive”

Television exposé of children at risk on roof insulation worksite

On 16 February 2010, I was interviewed by Channel 7 television in Melbourne over 20 minutes of footage they had received that showed unacceptable work practices at a domestic site in Cranbourne.

Emails from friends told me that my words and face were used in promotional ads by the TV program. At the time of writing this, I have not seen the ads and I have no idea what words of mine they will use in the program to be broadcast this evening, 17 February 2010. [Video now available online]

Today Tonight has video of  two men who are installing fibreglass insulation into a domestic roof space after having made an entry by removing some roof tiles.  The men were employed to undertake the work by a company that has registered with the Australian Government for the task.  The workers are equipped with face masks, gloves and coveralls.  No fall protection was provided. Continue reading “Television exposé of children at risk on roof insulation worksite”

Promising work flexibility and health research doesn’t go anywhere

“A new evidence review* suggests that giving employees more flexibility over their work schedules is likely to boost their health as judged by measures like blood pressure and stress. But interventions that are motivated or dictated by the needs of the employer, such as cutting hours, either have no effect on employee health or make it worse.

“Control at work is good for health,” said review co-author Clare Bambra, a researcher at Durham University, in England. “Given the absence of ill health effects associated with employee-controlled flexibility and the evidence of some positive improvements in some health outcomes,” Bambra said, more flexibility in work schedules “has the potential to promote healthier workplaces and improve work practices.”

The above quote indicates that new evidence may help all of us in assessing the benefits or otherwise of allowing employees to telework, or of readjusting work practices to improve health and safety at work.

BUT

an article issued in support of the research clearly identifies the risks of drawing almost any firm conclusions from the evidence other than that more research is required: Continue reading “Promising work flexibility and health research doesn’t go anywhere”

Australian employer groups are out for blood

For some reason several Australian newspapers on 16 February 2010 carried articles about the possibility of prosecuting the Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, over recent deaths associated with an insulation rebate scheme, he launched and his Department administers.

The employers are drawing a long bow to support their calls.  They are linking several related OHS issues in order to score political points the recent High Court decision on New South Wales (NSW) OHS laws, the Federal Government’s programs for harmonising OHS laws and the insulation installer deaths. Continue reading “Australian employer groups are out for blood”

Small business can equal depression, stress and mental health problems

According to an article in  the Australian Financial Review on 16 February 2010 (only available online through subscription):

“The isolation of working at home or in a small shop or factory by themselves can wear down many in the small and medium  enterprise sector.  In the most severe cases, it can lead to depression and cause major problems for their family and business.”

Andrew Griffiths provides a quote that illustrates well the work/life conflict in the small business sector: Continue reading “Small business can equal depression, stress and mental health problems”

BHP Billiton backflips on contractors due to safety concerns

BHP Billiton has been throughout the business newspapers over the last week following statements from the CEO, Marius Kloppers, but there was a fascinating article in the Australian Financial Review on 15 February 2010 (only available online through subscription. There is a link to the ABIX abstract HERE )

The article discusses the deaths that have plagued BHP Billiton but not its Australian rival Rio Tinto.  Rio Tinto does not use contractors, BHP does.  BHP Billiton has decided to cut 7,000 contractor positions in the Pilbara and replace them with employees, even though there is a skilled labour shortage in the region.  This decision is seen as the company giving in to pressure over the use of contractors as. compared with the example of RIO Tinto, employees are safer. Continue reading “BHP Billiton backflips on contractors due to safety concerns”