Quinlan’s time capsule includes useful OHS perspectives

Professor Michael Quinlan has been writing about occupational health and safety (OHS) and industrial relations for several decades. His writing has matured over that time as indicated by his most recent book, Ten Pathways to Death and Disaster.  In 1980, one of his articles looked at OHS through the prisms of Capitalism and Marxism.  It is remarkable how much an article that was written early in Quinlan’s career and at a time when OHS was considered another country remains relevant today.  This perspective contrasts strongly with the current dominant thinking on OHS and as a result sounds fresh and may offer some solutions.

In Quinlan’s 1980 article, “The Profits of Death: Workers’ Health and Capitalism”*, he writes that

“contrary to popular belief there is no objective irrefutable definition of illness”.

This could equally be applied to safety.  But searching for THE definition of things can lead to everlasting colloquia of academic experts without helping those who need to work within and apply safety concepts.

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“Shooting the shit out of them”

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On May 18 2017, Australia’s Senate Education and Employment Committee held a public hearing for its inquiry into Corporate Avoidance of the Fair Work Act in Melbourne Australia.  Executives of Carlton United Breweries (CUB) were the first to appear, ostensibly, to reiterate and answer questions about its submission.  The Chair of the Committee, Senator Gavin Marshall, had different expectations and stated he would be asking about a passionate, long and contentious dispute at CUB’s Abbotsford brewery in 2016.  Quotes from a CUB diary of events, mentioned by Senator Marshall, seemed to catch the CUB executives unaware.

Senator Marshall quoted from a CUB Manager’s diary asking what was meant by “Shooting the shit out of them”. The atmosphere in the hotel function room changed. Continue reading ““Shooting the shit out of them””

The OHS benefits of a single lunchtime meeting

Being a member of a local safety group provides nuggets of occupational health and safety (OHS) information from speakers and members in a broad range of industries and occupations.  The May 2017 meeting of the Central Safety Group at which Wayne Richards spoke provoked several OHS thoughts about safety, leadership and culture. One was that Transdev…

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Trade unions offer alternative, more accurate(?) workplace death statistics

The Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) indirectly acknowledged the ILO theme for World Day for Safety and Health at Work in its media release for International Workers Memorial Day 2017.  The ILO was calling for more, and better, data on workplace injuries and illnesses.  VTHC questioned the official workplace fatality numbers issued by the government.  It stated:

“A VTHC analysis shows that in 2016-17 over 200 Victorians died as a direct result of Workplace injury or illness, although the government’s official tally for the year is just 26.”

This disparity needs to be discussed across jurisdictions because occupational health and safety (OHS) data has always been incomplete, a fact acknowledged by many government inquiries in Australia for many years.  

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What do we want from a workers’ memorial?

When anyone dies, it is important to remember them and their relatives as well as those we did not know personally but who also grieve.  Public recognition of deceased workers is a recent phenomenon, even though we have commemorated and noted industrial disasters for over a century.  Memorials have always provided a symbolic focus for our attention and grief with the hope that these memorials motivate people to reduce the chances of a workplace death occurring to others.

But worker memorials need to be carefully considered and designed to be inclusive as Death visits all workplaces regardless of the religion of the workers, their ethnicity, the location of the fatality or the workplace conditions.  On the eve of International Workers’ Memorial Day for 2017, it may be time to rethink the memorial to deceased workers in Melbourne, Victoria.

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