Trucking inquiries scare the Conservatives

Australia’s newspapers have recently reported on the moves by the Federal Government to review the safety and working conditions of the country’s truck drivers. As expected, The Australian newspaper is painting this as the Government paying back its ideological and financial backers – the trade unions – and the resurrection of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), even though the Government denies this will happen.

Occupational health and safety (OHS) sits behind some elements of the debate. As with most things OHS, it will not be a game-changer in a discussion over pay rates and minimum standards, but it is a serious consideration, and deservedly so.

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Engineering controls are possible, and they save lives

The issue of quad bike safety has largely disappeared from the mainstream media. This is largely due to the decline in opposition to installing Crush Protection Devices (CPD) on newly-purchased quad bikes in line with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) mandated safety standards. On November 24 2022, the ACCC released statistics that showed the success of applying an Engineering Control (the CPDs) favoured by the safety advocates over the Administrative Controls (training, signage and dynamic riding) favoured by the manufacturers and their lobbyists.

The quad bike safety saga in Australia, in particular, is a textbook study of farm politics, globalisation, belligerence, the ownership of evidence, the macho culture of independence, manipulation of consumers, ineffective politics, ineffective occupational health and safety (OHS) arguments, the power of money and more. (There’s an important book challenge to anyone who has the time and the resources)

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Workplace suicides should be both notified and investigated

Why does this blog keep writing about workplace suicides? For decades, occupational health and safety (OHS) policy has been determined and measured by traumatic physical fatalities. Psychosocial policies need to be determined and measured by work-related suicides. But to achieve this starting point, the stigma of suicide needs addressing. Recently Professor Sarah Waters and Hilda Palmer conducted an online seminar about workplace suicides and including them as notifiable incidents under the United Kingdom’s Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) laws, Australia needs a similar discussion.

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New OHS data but few solutions

Safe Work Australia has released its latest statistical profile on work health and safety in Australian workplaces.  All of the information in the report is interesting and relevant; most of the information is positive or an update of what was already known.  But there are things missing.

The most obvious limitation of these statistics is that the primary source remains workers’ compensation claims data, which may take years to resolve. We know that this data source is not representative of the level of injuries and harm in Australian workplaces. SWA points out that additional sources are used, such as media reports and notifications from local jurisdictions, but these are of variable quality. 

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Curious economic modelling on OHS

During October’s National Safe Work Month, Safe Work Australia released an important evaluation of the economics of occupational health and safety (OHS). The report, prepared by Deloitte, received minimal attention from the mainstream media who was more focussed on Treasurer Jim Chalmers‘ first national budget statement.

The timing of the report’s release seems unfortunate as work health and safety was almost totally absent from the Treasurer’s budget papers. It is doubly unfortunate as the information in the report focuses so much on the national economic context of managing OHS. The data and modelling may be fresh, but all it seems to achieve is to reinforce that managing work health and safety is important and that not doing so is expensive and presents missed opportunities. We’ve known this for decades from various extensive reports from the Productivity Commission and the Industry Commission before that.

SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to put some questions to Safe Work Australia’s Director, Data Analysis, Phillip Wise.

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Fascinating trend survey that is really a snapshot

The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) has released a fascinating report into occupational health and safety (OHS) trends in Australia. As with the survey report by the Australian Council of Trade Unions earlier this month, the results are far from representative of the Australian population. In fact, the ACCI report is based on only 86 respondents.

The small sample limits some of the conclusions made by ACCI’s Director WHS Policy, Jennifer Low, but regardless, the report provides some insight into the OHS priorities, concerns and OHS literacy of ACCI members.

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Psychological regulations and control

Recently International SOS conducted a webinar on workplace psychosocial hazards and controls. Parts of it were clearly marketing and promotional, but some of the speaker’s content was fascinating and useful.

The seminar’s structure was good because it included a global perspective and a local Australian. The speaker from a worldwide standpoint, Dr Rachel Lewis, used financial figures to illustrate the seriousness of workplace mental health risks. These involved annual costs to employers, costs of workplace stress and other figures in the billions. This approach encourages a misunderstanding of the audience for workplace mental health seminars and the occupational health and safety (OHS) approach to the hazard.

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