As the dominance of neoliberalism weakens around the world, people are fearful of what comes next. In some sectors, that fear includes occupational health and safety (OHS). OHS is a business cost, in the same way as every other cost of running a business, but it is often seen as an interloper, a fun-sucker, a nuisance and/or an impediment to profitability. This misinterpretation needs to be contested.
I learnt more about the politics of the United States from Doonesbury than I did from television news and analysis. I learn more about the politics of occupational health and safety (OHS) in the United States from Jordan Barab‘s Confined Space newsletter/blog than I do any other media source. Although the US’s OHS legal structures are different from Australia and other Commonwealth countries, the political ideologies and maneuverings, and fads and statistics are noted by political parties outside the United States.
Recently Barab posted a Year in Review article which is obligatory reading. His key issues included:
- A New and Improved Congress (or at least the House)
- A Headless Agency
- Inspectors down, enforcement units down, penalties down
- Return of Black Lung
- Brett Kavanaugh
- Regulatory Rollback
- The Fate of the Labor Movement
Anything sound familiar in your own jurisdiction?
Occupational health and safety (OHS) related decisions are made on the state of knowledge about hazards and it is up to OHS people to make sure the state of knowledge is at its best so that the best decisions can be made. But what do you do if the state of knowledge on a hazard seems to be made purposely uncertain and that uncertainty is leading to the status quo, which also happens to provide a huge income for the owner of the product creating the hazard.
This seems to be a situation at the moment in Australia in relation to the use of the weedkiller, glyphosate, marketed heavily by the global chemical company, Monsanto. The alleged corruption of data on which OHS people and workers base their safety decisions was perhaps one of the most disturbing elements of the recent ABC Four Corners program on the chemical (
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently written about suicide prevention and the organisational structures that can contribute to poor mental health. The prominence of the CDC should result in a spate of media reports about this NIOSH Science Blog article.
Evidence of the link between the two has been building in Australia for some time through the work of several researchers. The CDC/NIOSH draws on
Australia continues to develop various Codes and Guidances for the prevention and management of sexual harassment, particularly in the creative industries. America’s Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) released some guidance about its Code of Conduct on April 12 2018. It is educative but Australia can do better.
A positive in SAG’s announcement is that it clearly places sexual harassment under the category of workplace safety which allows for a broad approach to the hazard and one that is supported by legislation and an employer’s duty of care.