Federal Safety Commissioner begins review of SWMS info

Recently, the issue of Safe Work Method Statements was discussed at a construction safety conference in Canberra.  SafetyAtWorkBlog reported that:

“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”

Last week, the Office of the Federal Safety Commission (OFSC) removed the webpage that led to its Fact Sheet – Guidance for producing Safe Work Method Statements.  The webpage now says that

“The Guidance for producing Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) Fact Sheet is currently under review.”

What’s going on? Continue reading “Federal Safety Commissioner begins review of SWMS info”

Draft bullying code and cultural measurement

cover of 2013 DRAFT-COP-Preventing-Responding-Workplace-BullyingSafe Work Australia has released its latest draft code of practice for preventing and responding to workplace bullying for public comment.  There are many useful and practical strategies in the draft code but workplace bullying is only a small element of the more sustainable strategy of developing a safe and respectful organisational culture.

The definition in the May 2013 draft code is a tidied up version of the September 2011 definition:

“…repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of  workers that creates a risk to health and safety.”

The lack of difference in these definitions is a real positive given the complaints, primarily, from the business community since 2011.  The significance in both definitions is that there must be a direct relationship between the behaviours and health and safety risks.  This could be substantially difficult to prove, particularly if , as in  most cases, it is the recipient of the bullying who needs to prove this.

Harm Prevention

Consider, for a moment, that this code of practice is used for establishing preventative measures and not just used for disproving a court case, these definitions can help establish a benchmark for creating a safe organisational culture. Continue reading “Draft bullying code and cultural measurement”

Safe Work Australia vs Quad Bike Manufacturers

The chair of Safe Work Australia, Rex Hoy, makes an extraordinary challenge to the manufacturers of quad bikes.  In a media statement released on 26 April 2013, he

“…has called on the designers and manufacturers of quad bikes to urgently reconsider improving the design of quad bikes so they are not prone to roll over.”

Quad bike Say Safety_v151_04_10This sounds a sensible and safe suggestion but independent Australian research is still to be completed on whether these work vehicles are prone to roll over as a result of their design, and not simply driver (mis)behaviour.

Hoy notes that people continue to die whilst riding quad bikes and is quoted saying:

“We cannot sit by and watch people being killed and seriously injured by these vehicles. Everyone has a responsibility for quad bike safety but it must involve a safer product. We need to ask ourselves how much a life is worth opposed to the cost of a crush protection device.”

Quad bike designers and manufacturers have been emphatic in their position that rollovers are, primarily, the fault of driver behaviour and that crush protection devices are likely to contribute to rollovers or exacerbate worker injuries from rollovers. Continue reading “Safe Work Australia vs Quad Bike Manufacturers”

OHS would benefit from a historical perspective on workplace bullying

Every year, around this time, the mainstream media reports on the findings of employee surveys of the Victorian public service. Each year the statistics on workplace bullying are featured.  (The Age newspaper reported on the latest survey on 31 March 2013.)  But the approach to an understanding of workplace bullying has changed over the last fifteen years or so.  A brief look at the March 2001 Issues Paper on workplace bullying, released by the Victorian Workcover Authority (VWA), is useful to illustrate the degree of  change but also the origin of some of the contemporary hazard control themes.

Cover of Bullying Issues PaperThe VWA Issues Paper was always intended to lead to a formal Code of Practice but due to belligerence from various industry bodies, no code eventuated and Victoria had to make do with a guidance note.  This effectively banished workplace bullying to a nice-to-manage rather than an essential element of modern management.  Significantly, Safe Work Australia intends to release a model Code of Practice on workplace bullying shortly. Perhaps the employer associations’ attitudes have mellowed.  Perhaps it is the decline of trade union influence since 2001.

The Issues Paper roughly defines workplace bullying as:

“…aggressive behaviour that intimidates, humiliates and/or undermines a person or group.” Continue reading “OHS would benefit from a historical perspective on workplace bullying”

An OHS look at the Australian Labor Party’s National Platform

Cover of National Platform 2011 ALPThe leadership squabbles in the Australian Labor Party (ALP) have diminished  for the moment, and the next Federal election is set for September 2013.  Most everyone is tipping the ALP to lose the election.  The verb “lose” is specifically chosen, for the opposition Liberal/National coalition will probably win “by default”.  Whatever the electoral outcomes, the major political parties in Australia have current positions and policies on workplace safety.  Six months out from an election, it may be worth looking at those policies, as they currently stand. The first is that of the ALP.

The ALP has an extensive National Platform that was presented at its National Conference in 2012.  Below are some of the statements from that document as they pertain to occupational health and safety (OHS).  Some commentary is offered on these statements.

“The Labor Government places the highest priority on worker safety, particularly miner worker safety.” (page 42) Continue reading “An OHS look at the Australian Labor Party’s National Platform”

First aid marketing exercise requires analysis

It is common to use a self-commissioned survey to market one’s services but sometimes the evidence does not support some of the marketing statements. The latest survey by St John Ambulance is a good example of this.

According to St John Ambulance’s media release on 13 March 2013:

“Only 13 per cent of Australian workplaces know how to keep their employees safe according to new research released … by … St John Ambulance Australia.”

Cover of First aid in the workplace - code 2012This is reworded in the report (page 2) as

“…only 13% of Australian businesses are compliant with the new [First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice]’s requirements…”

The survey sample does not support the generalisations above. Continue reading “First aid marketing exercise requires analysis”

How can one learn from OHS mistakes if those mistakes are hidden?

Occupational health and safety (OHS) regulatory agencies have existed for decades, originally with an enforcement role but increasingly aimed to prevention and education.  It is fair to say the “2nd generation” of OHS regulators in Australia appeared in the 1980s.  It is also fair to expect to be able to readily access the corporate memory and prosecutorial activity of the regulators, particularly since the growth in the Internet. Very recently WorkSafe Victoria reviewed its online database of OHS prosecutions excising prosecution summaries prior to 2012.  This decision is a major weakening of the “state of knowledge” about workplace safety in this State, a decision that some have described as outrageous.  How can one learn from mistakes if those mistakes are not made available?

Continue reading “How can one learn from OHS mistakes if those mistakes are hidden?”

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