Then current coronavirus pandemic has disrupted workplaces around the world with those most effected being low socioeconomic sectors, including those working on a casual basis or in precarious, gig occupations. Last week the Victorian Government received the final report from its Inquiry into the Victorian On-Demand Workforce. This report is likely to be crucial in assisting the government to develop a safe and healthy strategy for the post-pandemic world of work.
Last weekend across the road from home, two workers were on the roof of a three-storey apartment block construction installing or inspecting solar panels. No fall protection, no harnesses. I grabbed my phone to notify my local WorkSafe about this unsafe work activity. The switchboard was closed, and the phone number listed on the website was identified as only for emergencies. Was this an emergency? Not sure. By the time I worked it out, the workers were off the roof and the opportunity passed.
I now wish that my State had a notification app like that operating in New South Wales. I would have taken some photos and notified the occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator. The “Speak Up, Save Lives” app seems good, but it may also undercut the pathways to Consultation established through the OHS laws.
Workplace health and safety risks related to COVID19 emerge in Australia and the United Kingdom.
Trade Union Suggestions
On May 5 2020, the Australian Council of Trade Unions released a statement on occupational health and safety (OHS) calling for certain Industrial Relations and OHS changes, including:
- Paid pandemic leave
- New regulations on safety and health standards, and
- Compulsory notifications to Health Departments and OHS Regulators.
SafetyAtWorkBlog has been led to believe that the paid pandemic leave is intended to apply from the time a worker is tested for COVID19 through their isolation while waiting for the test results and the operation of sick leave should the test results be positive.
Almost every occupational health and safety (OHS) inquiry by the Australian Government has acknowledged the inadequacies of data on workplace injuries, illnesses and deaths. The 1995 Inquiry into Occupational Health and Safety (Volume 2) (pages 377-378) by the (then) Industry Commission acknowledged the lack of empirical evidence and made up its own. The situation has barely improved.
However a new project by West Australian academic,
I have tinnitus. There I have outed myself along with 18% of men and 14% of women, according to a research report* from Hearing Research journal published recently. For those unfamiliar with tinnitus it is a persistent buzzing or ringing in one’s ears usually caused by exposure to loud noise. It is relevant to occupational health and safety (OHS) in a number of ways:
- It needs to be considered in issues of communication
- Tinnitus can be distracting
- Tinnitus may be a symptom of poor noise management practices at work.
The research study conducted by David Moore and others was focusing on “lifetime leisure music exposure” so workplace noise is mentioned in the report only in passing.
It is common that unless a worker is deaf or seen signing, the default assumption is that everyone’s hearing is undamaged. The research data above shows that the assumption is false.
On February 2016, the New South Wales division of the Master Builders of Australia (MBANSW) launched a new mobile app that applies augmented reality (AR) to access safety information related to construction sites. The software has the capacity to access safety information in the form of videos, text, documents and internet links that can put occupational health and safety (OHS) information into the hands of workers.
There is great potential in this software application and the MBANSW should be acknowledged for supporting a technology that is still in its early development but offers an additional way of accessing important occupational health and safety information at the place where may be most needed – in the hands of workers.
But the app is not the answer to everything and, thankfully, MBANSW never claimed it was. There are technical and organisational limitations to the app but it is a very good start.
Ever since I read the London Encyclopaedia during my honeymoon in England, I have waited for a similar encyclopaedia based on workplace safety. However, the world has changed since then and such an encyclopaedia would most likely to be created as an app.
The London Encyclopaedia is indexed by places, streets and addresses, and so should a “Safety Encyclopaedia” app through a localised map of workplace fatalities.