Australian Government shifts workplace bullying into the industrial relations system

Free Access

Politicians are sufficiently media-savvy to release policies and information to gain the maximum exposure in the media cycle.  For some reason, Australia’s Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, missed the opportunity to have his changes on workplace bullying in the newspapers for 12 February 2013.  The news cycle is also being dominated by the resignation of Pope Benedict.  However Shorten’s response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying deserves detailed analysis.

??????????????????????????????????Shorten is bringing the investigation of workplace bullying cases under the Fair Work Commission.  There are likely to be complex consequences of this decision, a decision that is clearly the Minister’s as the Parliamentary Inquiry made no clear recommendation on the location of the “new national service”.

“The Committee did not receive evidence on where such a service [“a single, national service to provide advice to employers and workers alike on how to prevent, and respond to workplace bullying” 5.51, page 136] should be located.  It might be best situated within an existing government agency or department such as Safe Work Australia, the Fair Work Ombudsman or the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.  It may also be considered appropriate for the service to be an independent body that is funded by the Commonwealth. Consequently, the Committee does not have a clear recommendation as to where the new national service may sit.” (Section 5.58, page 138)

Clearly Shorten’s announcement could easily have been “Minister rejects independent body on workplace bullying”.  The Minister should be asked about his reasons for not establishing an independent body into this important issue. Continue reading “Australian Government shifts workplace bullying into the industrial relations system”

The smell of ‘corruption’

Free Access

Such are the warning signs

It stopped at 2.32 pm of an ordinary day.   One string of events ended abruptly at the pinch point of a groaning conveyor belt when his arm was ripped off.  Do you think of Swiss cheese models of risk alignment?  Of complexity or failure to learn?  Of the Moura coal mine disaster, the Longford oil and gas plant disaster, the Baker report and the BP Texas City refinery fatalities, of 29 miners killed in the desolate and terrorising Pike River coal mine, NZ, 2010?  Do you think of precariousness lurking at work, of leadership, of productivity?

For me this was the 5th arm I was personally aware of disappearing violently at work, generating years of withdrawal and solitude unrecorded in any OHS statistics.  In that time I had also observed hundreds of missing or useless machine guards.  Such a well known and easy hazard to fix.  What exactly is the problem, what does it indicate about OHS generally, and what may go some way towards practical improvements? Continue reading “The smell of ‘corruption’”

Red Tape Commissioner starts work on reform including OHS

Free Access

Cover of RedTapeSOEGuidelines-Jan2013In Australia and the United Kingdom, workplace health and safety compliance has been considered a prominent element of allegations of business “Red Tape“.  On 21 January 2013, Victoria’s Treasurer, Kim Wells, announced new guidelines into red tape in that State’s government authorities and regulators.  Wells’ media release states:

“Stage one of the reform will focus on the Victorian WorkCover Authority (VWA), VicRoads, Environment Protection Authority, Consumer Affairs Victoria and the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation.” [emphasis added]

Wells also says that the Red Tape Commissioner, John Lloyd, will administer the system which runs like this:

“Ministers will issue statements of expectations to key regulators which will require them to outline by 1 July 2013 how they intend to reduce red tape. Our aim is to see regulators reduce the cost of high-impact or high- Continue reading “Red Tape Commissioner starts work on reform including OHS”

Economic austerity should not be allowed to override safety priorities

Free Access

iStock_000009374843XSmallIn 2012 many countries have been required to pursue economic austerity measures.  A national or international economy rarely has any direct effect on safety management but the current economic status has led to an increase in harsh, or strong, political decisions and some of these decisions will affect safety management and professionals.  One obvious manifestation of political safety decisions is the UK Government’s decision to allow small businesses to step outside its occupational health and safety (OHS) laws in its pursuit of reducing supposed “red tape“.  This strategy is attractive to other government’s, including Australia’s, but the strategy could marginalise the safety profession even further if the profession remains insular and silent.

The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) has been campaigning for some time on the governments decisions to change its OHS laws in its quest for greater efficiencies and reduced business costs.  In the last few months, IOSH has turned its attention to the proposed changes to the  Continue reading “Economic austerity should not be allowed to override safety priorities”