Ross Gittins is a prominent Australian economics journalist. In The Age on September 20, 2023, he wrote an article about the recent spate of corporations being prosecuted and penalized for breaking the law. Many of his points can also relate to companies and executives breaking occupational health and safety (OHS) laws.Continue reading “Toothless enforcement”
There seems little doubt that global warming is now a reality. It has been forecast since the 1970s at least, but the fact of creeping change needs a turning point, and it seems that the current Northern Hemisphere Summer is that point. The Southern Hemisphere’s turn is only a few months away.
Few are talking about prevention. Instead, it is adaptation. Those adaptations need to be more than interventions at the individual level, such as increased hydration, wide-brimmed hats and facekinis. Global warming (climate change) has been a developing hazard for a while, contributed to by most countries and owned by none. Employees and customers need to reassess their work-related expectations. Here are some occupational issues and controls that deserve active reflection.
The March 2023 edition of Professional Safety, the journal of the American Society of Safety Professionals, included a lead story about the safety professional’s role in ESG (Environment Safety and Corporate Governance) strategies. Its perspective was a little unclear and was based on many assumptions.
One of the problems with the article is the assumption that the occupational health and safety (OHS) professional has a large influence over the decisions of the business. That is rarely the case, and there are many instances of OHS being sidelined or compartmentalised by structural and reporting lines and the exclusion of OHS from key decision forums like Board Meetings. So does OHS have a role and to what extent?
Recently at the Central Safety Group, I offered two business options to prevent and manage the risks of mental injury at work – Employ more people or Descope company expectations. This was glib, but I was trying to simplify the decisions that employers will face if they choose to meet their occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations. The reality of the decision-making process is challenging, but it seems to me that the core decisions are to increase the workforce to adequately and safely meet the needs of the company or project, or reduce the production volume or decrease the expectations of the client, and the related stress levels of the workers, to match the size of the workforce.
The actual decision is more complex, but this choice is fundamental to the prevention of harm and compliance with the OHS laws.
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.
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.
Shortly after Christmas 2022, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) released an article about the financial status of the Victorian Workcover Authority. The article was about a 2020 review of the financial sustainability of the workers’ compensation scheme by insurance and actuarial firm, Finity. This was built upon in a couple of mainstream newspapers.