More barriers appear to safety education reform

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The latest edition of National Safety magazine reports on the voluntary accreditation of OHS university courses.  The article is generally supportive of the initiative administered by the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board (AOHSEAB), but hints at some of the problems and should have clarified some of the organisational linkages.

There is no mention in the article of the professional, administrative and financial links between AOHSEAB and the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA).  There is no mention of Pam Pryor’s membership with the SIA even though she is the AOHSEAB’s registrar, a Fellow of the SIA and secretary of the SIA’s Education Chapter, although the Fellow status of Professor Dino Pisaniello is noted later in the article.

The strong linkages between the AOHSEAB and the SIA provide an important context to the comments of Greg Stagbouer, an SIA Director, Continue reading “More barriers appear to safety education reform”

New anti-bullying campaign launched

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Brodies’ Law concerning workplace bullying is set to gain more media attention today as the Victorian Attorney-General, Robert Clark, launches a new anti-bullying campaign.

The campaign has been pushed for by the parents of Brodie Panlock, Damien and Rae, and was whispered about at recent public hearings into workplace bullying.  However, the media campaign gained a shaky start on the ABC from psychologist Evelyn Field.  Her interview, which was videoed, appears almost off-topic and never gains the gravitas the subject of workplace bullying deserves.  The ABC may be partly at fault here by choosing Evelyn Fields instead of the Attorney-General or Brodie’s parents.

The media release of the Attorney-General (not yet available online) states that the ‘Take a stand against bullying’ campaign

“… will see information about bullying and Brodie’s Law distributed to more than 8,000 schools, workplaces and police stations across Victoria.”

When one considers the number of schools, workplaces and police stations in Victoria, 8,000 is not a lot.  Victoria Police has been very supportive of Brodie’s Law and the Panlock family and have produced a terrific Youtube video to explain the law.  It is far more effective than other attempts to explain the law. Continue reading “New anti-bullying campaign launched”

OHS – the missing element in productivity debate

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On 7 August 2012, the Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, verbally attacked the Federal Government over its COAG program and lack of support for  productivity initiatives.  The criticism of productivity sounded odd as the Victorian Government has dropped out of the reform program for occupational health and safety laws yet OHS is understood to have a positive effect on productivity. More clarification was needed on this understanding.

In April 2012 the Productivity Commission, an organisation favoured by Premier Baillieu, discussed OHS reforms in Australia.  that

“Improved health and safety outcomes achieved in practice would then lead to benefits for businesses (such as increased worker productivity, reduced worker replacement costs and reduced workers’ compensation costs), workers (increased participation, reduced medical costs among others) and society more generally (though reduced public expenses on health, welfare and legal systems).” (page 170)

For years there has been a debate about safety versus productivity.  Partly this stemmed from the taking of shortcuts on safety in order to satisfy production.  In the short-term, it was perceived that safety could be an impediment to production – take the guard of a machine, run the line speed faster than recommended, “don’t worry about the faceshield, just get it done”.  But safety professionals have been arguing that this risky behaviour masks the real problem of  not integrating safety management into the business operations and seeing safety as an optional add-on, or something applied when the boss is watching.

The recently released OHS Body of Knowledge provides some relevant insights on the productivity benefits of safety management that deserve better and broader communication. Continue reading “OHS – the missing element in productivity debate”

Vulnerability and arrogance

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“How can this be allowed to happen nowadays?” the distressed wife of a seriously injured worker asked me recently.  Her husband was sitting next to her, his eyes still victims of the recent terror that nearly killed him.  She saw that and struggled to join him in his very dark and personal space.  This now would become a life time job for her.

This meeting captured for me one of the most fundamental factors at most workplaces.  That workers’ most common feeling at work is that of vulnerability.  Of course many workers find comfort and pride in their job.  Of course it feeds them and their families.  Of course it can provide personal identity and purpose.  And of course there are many managers who understand all this.

But it’s also true that much too often this is not the case.  That’s one reason why when suddenly factories or mines close, or car manufacturers ‘shed’ 200 workers, or car part factories go bust workers are not only shocked, but it substantiates their sense of vulnerability, “What a shock, I thought they loved us!”

Not only is this painfully evident when a negligently poor H&S standard results in crippling a worker for life, but is typically present on a daily basis.  Permanent fear of job loss results.  The fact that a worker can be disciplined or sacked for a number of events that can be defined and redefined by creative managers feeds that feeling.  That’s another reason why so much bullying and humiliation occur and so much stress is experienced. Continue reading “Vulnerability and arrogance”

New book on OHS laws challenges current understandings of workplace safety

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With the change of political heart from some of Australia’s state governments over the harmonisation of occupational health and safety laws, many academic and legal publishers revised their book plans as the national market was less national. However, some continued to publish understanding that although OHS harmonisation had a political deadline of 1 January 2012, refinement of the laws would continue for several years.

Federation Press has released a new book by prominent labour lawyer, Michael Tooma, and academic, Richard Johnstone, called “Work Health & Safety Regulation in Australia – The Model Act“. The title states an immediate limitation that other publishers squibbed at. The book is based on the Model Work Health and Safety Act and not, necessarily, the versions of the Act implemented at State level. Production timelines are responsible for this but it makes it even more important to follow the writings and research of Johnstone and Tooma to understand developments.

The Social Context of Safety

The authors reiterate an important element of the WHS Act in their introduction:

“[the laws] are no longer workplace or occupationally based, nor predicated on the employment relationship; rather the laws protect persons involved in ‘work’ in a business or undertaking, and, in addition, protect ‘others’ whose health and safety is affected by work. Consequently the scope of the Model Act is limited only by the imagination of those entrusted to interpret them and to enforce them.” (page 3)

This paragraph summarises well the elements of the laws that are causing so much fear in the Australian business community. Continue reading “New book on OHS laws challenges current understandings of workplace safety”