In an industry where there are no employers, who is responsible for workplace health and safety?

The Victorian Government has been running an inquiry for a little while on the “on-demand workforce”, a term which seems to be a synonym for the gig economy. The government recently extended the deadline for public submissions. This is often a sign that inquiries are struggling for information which is almost an inevitable consequence if you schedule an inquiry over the Christmas/New Year break.

This inquiry has direct relevance to occupational health and safety (OHS) and vice versa.

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Too big to change

The strong readership of the article on truck driver safety based on the research of Dr Clare George resulted in one reader remind me of Australian research from 2017 that looked at similar issues.

In 2017 Louise Thornthwaite and Sharron O’Neill published “Regulating the work health and safety of Australian road freight transport drivers: summary report“.  The authors wrote:

“Work health and safety (WHS) is a significant issue for the heavy vehicle road freight transport industry. The sector has a history of the highest fatalities and serious injury rates of any industry in Australia. While media focuses on drivers killed in road crashes, these represent only a subset of the hundreds of drivers killed or permanently disabled, and thousands more injured, in and around trucks each and every year.

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New thesis on transport safety looks at the bigger OHS picture

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A recently completed thesis into occupational health and safety (OHS) and New Zealand’s trucking industry is gaining some media attention.  It deserves more, as it identifies many of the structural and cultural barriers to improving health and safety in this important and global industry.   Continue reading “New thesis on transport safety looks at the bigger OHS picture”

Two exemptions to Victoria’s Industrial Manslaughter laws

Every industry sector should have its own occupational health and safety (OHS) conference.  This allows for specific OHS topics to be presented but also provides for a broader context. The recent conference conducted by the Victorian Branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) was a great example.

So close to a State election and in the lead-up to a Federal election it was not surprising that the trade union movement’s Change The Rules campaign gained attention, as did the push for the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter laws, in the presentation by Dr Paul Sutton.

The main points of his presentation are familiar and have been reported on previously but this presentation included news about two exemptions to the laws which may raise uncomfortable questions. 

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An OHS-based investigation of suicides should identify new control options

Melbourne, Australia – December 28, 2016: Melbourne Metro Train at Ringwood Station

Why is rail-related suicide an occupational health and safety (OHS) issue?

I looked into the issue of rail-related suicide when writing an OHS chapter for the Metro Trains Melbourne’s (MTM) bid for a franchise renewal for running trains on the metropolitan network. Each rail-related suicide, MTM describes these as trespasser suicides, creates major work-related psychological trauma for the train drivers as well as grief for the families of the deceased.  These incidents have secondary impacts on the rail workers who need to clean the trains which are taken out of service after each incident and driven to the nearest biowash, as well as those MTM staff, and emergency service workers, who were required to attend the scene.

There is also massive harm, pain and cost to those whose suicide attempts fail to result in death, and those who will care for those who are now disabled.

Addressing the hazard of rail-related suicides needs a new and broader discussion; one which must involve a broad, enlightened occupational health and safety approach.

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