Annual Reports are not as transparent on OHS performance as they could be

Around four or five years ago, occupational health and safety (OHS) reporting in Corporate Annual Reports was a hot topic as Australian research had indicated that Annual Reports were not revealing sufficient, or useful, OHS data. Also awards were being presented for the best OHS reporting in Annual Reports. SafetyAtWorkBlog has looked at a sample of the reports released by the Victorian Government over the last fortnight to see what OHS information is available.

Two major keywords were used to search the Annual Reports – “Safe” and “Well”. These words form the stemS of other search terms such as “safety” and “wellbeing” or “wellness”. Each of the word responses were looked at for a focus on workplace or work-related activity. Although public safety may have an increasing OHS context, public safety, and a range of other “safeties”, were not included.

Some Annual Reports were okay, others? Egh! But what is clear is that there is no excuse.

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CEDA provides business insights but more is needed

One of the missed opportunities for improving occupational health and safety (OHS) over the last 30 years has been the application of corporate social responsibilities (CSR) to the supply chain and not to one’s own health and safety performance. CSR and OHS and social justice and decent work are all elements of the Venn Diagram of keeping people safe.

But this diagram exists in a world where economics dominates political decision-making and conflict results. Recently in Australia corporate leaders have spoken about various controversial social issues. Last week the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ben Morton advised companies to stop this advocacy and focus on the economic fundamentals of business. This week the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) released its Company Pulse survey results which shows that the community accepts that company executives can advocate for social issues.

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The Interconnectedness Challenge

The solutions to most occupational health and safety (OHS) issues are multidisciplinary meaning that solutions are rarely simple and rarely come from a single source of information or knowledge. Recently I have been challenging my colleagues to spread their voices and experience beyond their own disciplines to illustrate how a worker’s health and safety is affected by a broad range of hazards and environments. I extend that challenge to all organisations including employer and industry groups like the Business Council of Australia (BCA) which has recently released a report on “The state of enterprise bargaining in Australia”.

Many organisations undertake research into different elements of work but rarely take an overall perspective, or one that analyses the interconnection of societal and occupational conditions and pressures. The latest BCA report is one example

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Chinese Whispers on drugs and alcohol at work

Evidence-based policy making needs make sure that the evidence is accurate and valid. Evidence is also the foundation of the state of knowledge of the occupational health and safety (OHS) professional, action and regulations. To achieve and sustain these aims and requirements, evidence needs to be questioned in order to verify it.

On July 17 2019 WorkSafe Victoria distributed an email newsletter which stated that

“… 15% of workplace injuries worldwide are caused by alcohol and drug use”

and referencing Comcare as its source. But that source says something significantly different.

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Big potatoes, small potatoes, trust and transparency

The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) has released a research paper that discusses the reporting of workplace fatalities by major companies in their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reports. There are many informational benefits in this report but perhaps the most important is that the report reinforces occupational health and safety (OHS) in ESG reports. The risk is that OHS is seen only in relation to the ESG criteria in Annual Reports.

Australia has experienced a gentle push for inclusion of OHS performance measurements in company and government department Annual Reports. SafetyAtWorkBlog has reported on this and some peer-reviewed research and recommendations over many years. The ACSI report progresses this but also illustrates the sluggish rate of change.

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