Mining comments are revealing

The reader’s comments on online articles can be very revealing. Below is a discussion of some of the comments posted on The Australian website in response to an article about the accuracy of workplace fatality data in the mining industry. Given that this is one of the few mainstream media articles about occupational health and safety (OHS), they are telling.

One commenter asked the newspaper:

“… if one of your accountants based in the Sydney office were to have a car accident in Parramatta while driving to work in the morning, would you include that in your OHS statistics as a workplace fatality?”

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Questions asked on mining death data

The Australian newspaper published an article from the The Wall Street Journal titled “The hidden death toll from mining” (paywalled), written by Alistair Macdonald and others that questions the workplace health and safety prominence that is given to the minerals/materials sector. The opening paragraph is:

” Many mining deaths aren’t captured by global safety statistics, making the industry seem safer than it is to regulators, investors and consumers.”

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The new must build on the old – Uber, violence and safety

Anything Uber does gets global attention. This month Uber released its Safety Report which included sexual assaults and misconduct by its drivers in the United States. It seems that the importance of a planned workplace health and safety system has caught up with Uber.

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Do workers have a real choice about their safety?

I apologise for spending so much time recently writing about Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws, but the discussion of these laws is illustrating many of the interpretations of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws and management.  For instance, the recent IM debate in Victoria has repeatedly mentioned the need to apply IM laws to the acts and decisions of employees, as if employees have an unfettered choice to put their safety before the wishes of their employer – a nonsensical myth.

On November 26 2019 in Victoria’s Parliament Rod Barton MP of the Transport Matters Party acknowledged that the IM laws may focus the employer’s attention on ensuring truck drivers do not work while fatigued (an obligation already required by the OHS Act).  He then said:

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Paper provides historical context to OHS laws

Barry Naismith of OHSIntros has provided excellent independent analysis of Victoria’s occupational health and safety (OHS) data for many years. His latest “Deaths at Work” report (available publicly for a limited time) includes a detailed discussion on the social context of Victoria’s proposed Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws.

But of more immediate interest is Naismith’s longitudinal analysis. One of his graphs showing death statistics back to the commencement of Victoria’s modern-era OHS laws in 1985 supports the statement popular with politicians that the rate of work-related deaths is declining over that time but Naismith points out that the five-year trend to 2018 is reversed and that this is part of the justification for the IM Laws.

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