Zero Harm is a “fallacious deception” – thoughts on the 2012 Safety In Action Conference 9

Overall the Safety In Action Conference, currently occurring in Melbourne, has been consistent but without any standout moments.  However there have been nuggets of interest from the speakers and insight from some of the participants.

Andrew Douglas of M+K Lawyers was blunt in describing some of the actions between State Governments and the Federal Government over the harmonisation of occupational health and safety laws as “extortion” that is impeding much-needed growth.  Also, he was clear that the most effective people to undertake investigations of workplace incidents were OHS professionals as safety is their expertise.  He was adamant that lawyers are experts in law and safety professionals in safety but that they must work cooperatively.

Gerard Forlin was an enormously entertaining presenter who should have been a keynote speaker as, he himself said, he was only warming up after his half hour.  His comparisons between Australian and UK OHS law were insightful.  Industrial manslaughter laws are out of vogue in Australia but Forlin stated that corporate manslaughter laws have contributed to an increased focus on safety by senior executives, even though prosecutions under those laws have been curiously targeted. More…

Upcoming cancer in the workplace seminar 1

In November 2010 Geoff Fary left his role with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) to chair the Asbestos Management Review. On May 3 2012 Geoff Fary will join other keynote speakers in a full day seminar in Melbourne called “Cancer in the workplace – a forum on practical solutions for prevention“.  This event has been jointly organised by the ACTU and the Cancer Council of Australia.

Australia’s trade union movement has a good record in asbestos- and cancer-related seminars but rarely do they gain much traction outside of their sector.  The cooperation with the Cancer Council will broaden the appeal of the seminar into more general workplace health consideration, particularly with a speaker from the United States, Lucille Servidio of Capaccio Environmental Engineering.  Local speakers are not overlooked with, probably, Associate Professor Tim Driscoll being the most recognisable participant to OHS professionals.

With the increasing attention to workplace health, concern over cancer clusters and breast cancer risks in nightshift workers, these very affordable seminars often give terrific value – not something that one always gets from the seminars that cost of $A2000 a day.

Kevin Jones

Web interview on 18 April 2012 Reply

At a safety trade show running in conjunction with the Safety In Action Conference, Digicast will be streaming an interview with me at 2.00pm Australian Eastern Standard Time (5am GST) on 18 April 2012.  Other safety professionals will follow my interview.

To watch go to

Kevin Jones

WorkSafe Victoria missteps on its venture with “Candid Camera” approach 10

WorkSafe Victoria has released a video of an experiment that shows that people will undertake unsafe acts if asked to do so.  This video is part of the OHS regulator’s campaign to increase focus on the OHS obligations of supervisors but it has generated serious complaints from safety professionals and advocates.

WorkSafe Victoria has been advised that the video sends “mixed messages” about electrical safety.  Safety professionals have decried that the video is meant to be funny with its jaunty whistling soundtrack yet it shows an apprentice pretending to receive a shock.  One participant giggles when she realises it is a joke, in the same way people are relieved after being “punk’d” or laugh after seeing the “candid camera” even though their participation was alarming.  The video has been described as a “stunt” that fails to illustrate the serious consequences of the action of handling live electric cables. More…

OHS is Dead. Long Live WHS. 6

Media reports on the 13 April 2012 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting say that harmonisation of occupational health and safety laws in Australia has died.  Some say this is the fault of the Victorian Government with its economic justification for inaction but the process was struggling as soon as the West Australian Government flagged its major concerns, principally, with increased union powers, as reiterated in the Australian Financial Review on 14 April 2012 (not available on-line).

WA Premier Colin Barnett is quoted as saying that:

“There are three or four sections we don’t agree with and the principle one of those relates to right of entry [for trade unions]… We see that as an industrial issue.  Right of entry, it is was applied to OH&S, in all probability would be used by the unions to shut down the Pilbara iron ore operations…”

This is further evidence of the political dominance of the mining sector in Western Australia, if it was ever needed.

Victoria does not have the same excuse as the right of entry has existed for many years and almost totally without any industrial relations problems. More…