Give me a young worker, and I can make them safer for life*

Trade union membership in Australia has declined to its lowest level ever of 12.5%, according to an article in The Age newspaper (paywalled) on January 6 2023. The experts mention several demographic factors that have resulted in the persistent decline. Even though trade unionists publicly state that worker health and safety is often their top priority, they never seem to use occupational health safety (OHS) in their marketing of union membership.

This article does not suggest that OHS be bastardised for commercial purposes or that the primary responsibility for safe work does not reside with the employer. Still, union membership may be purchased for a young worker, in particular, perhaps by parents or concerned relatives to assist in keeping their loved ones safe at work.

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C-Suite is disinterested in OHS

Consulting firm KPMG has released its annual survey report on the concerns of corporate executives called “Keeping us up at night – The big issues facing business leaders in 2023”. Occupational health and safety (OHS) fails to get a mention. (So much for the attitudinal impact of Industrial Manslaughter laws!) But then neither does “mental health” nor “sexual harassment“.

The KPMG report may accurately reflect executive priorities, but it may also reflect a denial of reality.

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Is Safety Leadership for everyone or just the executives?

At last week’s Asia Pacific Occupational Safety and Health Organisation conference, I bumped into Jen Jackson, a young creative thinker on occupational health and safety (OHS) and the author of “How to Speak Human”. We had a quick chat about OHS leadership and gender issues. Below is an edited transcript with a link to the raw audio.

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Why are farms still unsafe?

The start of School Holidays is always a good time to issue reminders of the risks associated with farms, beaches and wherever holidaymakers go. The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF), recently reinvigorated in its occupational health and safety (OHS) efforts, has released a new safety booklet – “Child Safety on Farms – A practical guide for farming parents“. However, the coverage of this guide by the ABC is a little loose.

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Lymph v Blood – OHS at the Jobs & Skills Summit

If Industrial Relations is the lifeblood of the economy and the nation, then Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) is the lymphatic system, a less well-known supplementary system without which blood circulation fails and the body stops working.

Australia’s Job and Skills Summit that has just concluded focused on the blood. Media analysis offered mixed interpretations. The event was politically stage-managed with many agenda items pre-prepared for the Summit to confirm, but it was not a worthless gabfest, as some (who chose not to attend) have asserted. On the matter of occupational health and safety, there was one new initiative but most of the OHS change, if any, is now more likely to come through the (wellbeing) budget in October.

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Webinar of insight and update

Recently 700 people registered for a webinar conducted by Herbert Smith Freehills on work health and safety reforms, primarily on psychosocial risks at work. These risks were presented in various inquiries into sexual harassment, fly-in fly-out work practices but also generated new regulations, guidances and codes.

Steve Bell spoke about the responses from occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators to these issues and said:

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The man on the stair who isn’t really there

On August 26 2022, Australia’s Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Tony Burke, spoke at a union conference.  This is not an unusual event for Ministers, but the timing of Burke’s address was less than a week before a major Jobs and Skills Summit – the hottest political event in town at the moment.  The transcript of the speech provides clues and hints as to how occupational health and safety (OHS) may or may not be discussed.

There is an early indication that safe workplaces are important (heart skips a beat), but then it seems shunted to the side.  Burke said:

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