Last year I watched Trainwreck, a documentary on the Woodstock ‘99 music festival. After watching, I took a moment to pause and reflect. I asked myself, have we as a society, and as health and safety professionals, really learned and improved as much as we could have? Over the past five years, Splendour in the Grass, Fyre Festival, Astro World and Houston Music Festival have all experienced unsafe and unhealthy practices, and even fatal occurrences. These events are not typically discussed in the occupational health and safety circle, and they are not the usual scenarios that are looked to for lessons learned. Nor are the recovery efforts presented at conferences, with improvements showcased and implemented at the next event.
Over the last few months, various seminars from law firms and others have focussed on how to comply with new and impending occupational health and safety regulations related to psychosocial hazards at work. Over the last fortnight, I attended two such seminars; they were as different as chalk and cheese, even though both had strong voices from lawyers, illustrating the sources of some of the confusion over the issue felt by some employers.
On March 17 2023, the Australian government released the Productivity Commission’s latest 5-year Productivity Inquiry report. At well over a thousand pages, few people are going to read it to the level it deserves. Nor will I, but I have dipped into it and found a couple of important comments that relate directly to the management of occupational health and safety (OHS).
Large consulting firms have been getting a hammering lately. Fraud, leaking information, work-related suicides, corruption, unethical behaviour……. I bet they are nostalgic for the good old days when they were primarily auditors. There are several occupational health and safety (OHS) connections with the Big4, Big3 or Big 7. Auditing is the obvious overlap, but several recent books have identified some other strange relationships with Government that affect policy that, in turn, affect OHS. This is a brief look at one of those books – The Big Con.
There is an increasing trend to look deeper into the causal factors of workplace incidents and poor worker health in the physical and psychological contexts. This is partly due to “systems thinking” and partly dissatisfaction with failed regulatory and psychological strategies that promised so much but have failed to realise the promise. The trend needs some boosting by the occupational health and safety (OHS) community, which itself needs upskilling.
Global warming is affecting how we work just as much as how we live. Working in Heat policies are designed based on experience rather than meteorological and climate forecasts, meaning these documents are always chasing reality and not getting ahead of the occupational hazard.
On January 19, 2023, Steven Greenhouse (coincidental name) looked at the topic of working in extreme for Nieman Reports writing that:
“High heat can be a big problem for the nation’s workers, not just farmworkers and construction workers, but delivery workers, utility workers, landscaping workers, and warehouse workers.”
The primacy of profit to employers is an accepted truth. However, the size of the profit and the pathway to those profits are not absolutes, and it is in this latter context that occupational health and safety (OHS) lives.
Even though profit is a business truth, it is often a word that business representatives seem to fear. They speak of profit through synonyms like “productivity” and “competitiveness”. An example of this timidity or wariness was displayed recently by prominent businessman Michael Angwin in an opinion piece in the Australian Financial Review (paywalled) that contained many other cautious words of business jargon. Angwin misses the harm to workers and others generated by the world as he sees it.