Innovative thinking needed if Australia is to save lives and improve the economy 4

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) advocates for workers’ rights and entitlements with occupational safety being one of those entitlements but sometimes the safety message from ACTU is a little narrow.

On 14 March 2012, the ACTU issued a media release responding to the release of important workplace safety data by Safe Work Australia.  The release quotes ACTU President Ged Kearney emphasising very important data:

“This report has found that the cost of each workplace incident is around $99,100 and of this workers pay $73,300, the community $20,800 and employers $5100…”

and

“We think we are a clever country but it isn’t so smart to forgo almost 5% of our nation’s GDP on the cost of preventable workplace injury and illness…”

But what does the ACTU propose to address this economic cost of poor safety management? More…

New Workers’ Memorial announced for Australia 10

In May 2011, the Australian Government announced the development of a National Worker’s Memorial.  The winning design, selected by an independent jury from a competitive pool of 26 entries, was announced in Canberra this evening.

Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten announced that Architects Johnson Pilton Walker have been awarded the task.  In a media statement Shorten said that

 “The memorial will honour and pay tribute to all working Australians who have died as a result of work-related accidents, incidents and disease… It will also provide an important focal point for the national commemoration of Workers’ Memorial Day, recognised internationally on 28 April each year.” More…

The Australian newspaper dismisses workplace deaths as “sickies” 7

Safe Work Australia has released two important statistical reports. One concerns the number of Work-Related Traumatic Injury Fatalities for 2009-10 and the other is called The Cost of Work-Related injury and Illness for Australian Employers, Workers and the Community: 2008-09 .

These reports have gained minimal mainstream media coverage. In a very short article The Australian newspaper preferred to focus on productivity clauses in workplace agreements following a departmental report, as is its choice, but, more significantly, the newspaper’s headline dismisses the report’s cost estimates on “work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths” as “sickies”.  The report on costs, from where The Australian drew its $A60 billion reference, includes an evaluation of the cost of workplace fatalities, defined in the report on page 18 as

“a work-related injury or disease, which results in death.”

It is enormously insulting that the newspaper includes workplace deaths in its disparaging headline “Workers’ sickies costing us $60bn”. Minister Bill Shorten states in his media release accompanying the reports that:

“Work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities have a huge impact on Australian society. They can physically and mentally affect workers, colleagues, employers, families and the community. This latest research is evidence of the significant cost to Australia’s economy. Workplace safety is not just about avoiding human tragedy it is also about reducing economic cost for the nation.”

At a time when the Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, is trying to bring some rigour and dignity to the issue of workplace safety, The Australian newspaper should be ashamed.

Kevin Jones

The synchronicity of safety and environment Reply

There has always been a moral similarity between the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession and the environmental advocates.  One focusses on the immediate safety of humans and the other on the long term safety of humans.  This similarity can create challenges for organisations and industries that have workers in both environmental settings such as forestry and mining.  This type of challenge is currently being faced by Dr Nikki Williams of the Australian Coal Association.

In an article in the Weekend Australian on 10 March 2012 Dr Williams expressed concerns over a Greenpeace campaign against coal mining.  (Significantly the newspaper included no quotes from either Bob Brown of the Australian Greens or from Greenpeace.  ABC News did on on March 6 2012)  She inadvertently compliments the campaigners by saying the campaign shows a “a very high level of planning”, is “sophisticated” and “very detailed”. More…

Differentiate the WorkCover and WorkSafe brands 9

Recently SafetyAtWorkBlog wrote:

“In many industries, and in the safety profession itself, people confuse the OHS laws of injury prevention with the Compensation laws of rehabilitation.”

This misunderstanding also extends to the public.  Every so often, this blog receives comments from irate readers who express their frustration with “WorkSafe” or “Workcover”.  It is a frustration that is shared by many but the frustration is frequently aimed at the wrong target.  Most of the frustration stems from real or perceived injustice in the workers compensation system, but the criticism refers repeatedly to the OHS prevention and enforcement authority. More…