Case studies and research on gender in workplace safety

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Engineering Student Marking BlueprintsSeveral SafetyAtWorkBlog articles recently have had record readership statistics. One of particular note concerned gender issues in the workplace.  On 9 June 2013, Marie-Claire Ross wrote about her experiences with gender bias in the workplace and, in particular, its existence in the safety profession.

This reminded me of two documents I recently read about gender and safety. The April 2013 edition of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management (AJOEM)devoted an entire edition of the magazine to gender issues.This is a useful counterpoint to the SafetyAtWorkBlog article as emergency management remains a male-dominated culture.

This edition of AJOEM includes the following snippets.

While investigating communications, Dr Christine Owen’s research revealed

“…cultural challenges to team communication and specifically a masculinist culture (i.e. acting with high confidence and bravado).” Continue reading “Case studies and research on gender in workplace safety”

WorkHealth raises health awareness but only so far

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Last week the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) released a review of the WorkHealth program.  The results are very positive and deserve detailed analysis.  However these analyses do not seem to address all the expectations of the Victorian Government when the program was launched several years ago.

Cover of workhealth_synthesis_reportPremier John Brumby said at the launch of WorkHealth that

“Over time the program is expected to free up $60 million per year in health costs, as well as:

  • Cut the proportion of workers at risk of developing chronic disease by 10 per cent;
  • Cut workplace injuries and disease by 5 per cent, putting downward pressure on premiums;
  • Cut absenteeism by 10 per cent; and
  • Boost productivity by $44 million a year.”

One of the key findings of the research seems to meet two of the program’s aims:

“Modelling of outcome forecast goals for a 10% reduction in absenteeism and a 5% reduction in compensable injury rates are likely to be met, especially as health promotion program uptake increases.” (page 5)

It is reasonable to expect from a 4-5 year study of hundreds of thousands of work health checks that hard data be obtained but as the quote above reveals, the researchers needed to apply modelling and draw on research from other sources. Continue reading “WorkHealth raises health awareness but only so far”

No one is mentioning OHS prosecution in Telstra/NBN asbestos stoush

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Australian politics is currently embroiled in a dispute generated by a contractor entering the telecommunications pits of the asset owner. Some, or many, of the pits contain asbestos and the contractor’s work, the laying of new fibre-optic cables, may disturb the asbestos. There are many other concerns but that is the nub.

The Australian newspaper has been running on this issue for many weeks but one article in today’s edition called “Tak​ing a dig: will Bill come up short?” (page 9 – online paywall), by David Crowe, caught my attention. Crowe reports that:

“The Aus­tralian has been told Tel­stra chief ex­ec­u­tive David Thodey wrote to Shorten in De­cem­ber 2009 to ar­gue against his pro­posal for a ‘‘proac­tive’’ pro­gram to re­move as­bestos from the com­pany’s pits. Thodey gave three rea­sons for not pro­ceed­ing: the cost; the risk of re­leas­ing as­bestos; and the fact plans for the NBN were in train but had not been locked in.”

I realise that the OHS legislative concept of “reasonably practicable” does not extend to all facets of life but if it were applied to the current asbestos exposure (and I think it could) Thodey’s three reasons given above would be crucial in any potential prosecution, particularly if the reasons in Thodey’s response to Bill Shorten were listed in order of priority. In OHS law, cost is the last element to be considered in determining a reasonably practicable hazard control measure.

Continue reading “No one is mentioning OHS prosecution in Telstra/NBN asbestos stoush”

The practical manifestation of safety leadership

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Professor Andrew Hopkins‘ frequent appearances at safety conferences are always fascinating as he does not simply trot out the same presentation each time. He is certainly not a priest with the same 52 sermons each year.

At the Building Safety conference Hopkins spoke briefly about mindfulness but grounded this in how executives and others should inspect a worksite and what questions to ask. He discussed audits also but there will be more on that in another article.

Hopkins insisted that executives should show leadership and begin to satisfy their positive OHS duty and their due diligence obligations by walking their worksites, talking with their workers and, most importantly, listening to the answers. There are no hard and fast rules or guidelines on the frequency of these visits but he said that the executives should NOT be accompanied. Having a phalanx of execs in pristine PPE approaching a work group puts the workers on guard and makes them self-conscious. Continue reading “The practical manifestation of safety leadership”

Serious questions raised over the role of Safe Work Method Statements

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Any safety conference involving the Australian construction industry will have some discussion on Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) and this weekend’s Building Safety conference was no different. During the presentation on Saturday by the Federal Safety Commissioners, SWMS was bubbling along underneath many of his words and statements. Sadly, the audience (now) seems to have been too polite to ask him questions about the elephant in the room. There was no such hesitation following the presentation by Brookfield-Multiplex’s Paul Breslin on the Sunday.

Several delegates stated their belief that the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner (OFSC) is largely to blame for the over-emphasis on SWMS in the construction sector and for the bloating of SWMS into a document that does little to improve safety and is more related to meeting the audit criteria of the OFSC.

Continue reading “Serious questions raised over the role of Safe Work Method Statements”