Me! Me! Me! – OHS needs to grow up for the new world structure

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There is much general discussion about the Fourth Industrial Revolution,  The Future of Work and other speculative work-related concepts. Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum wrote:

“We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.”

For the purposes of this blog “work” is the focus and health and safety the discussion points.  Occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals have a unique opportunity to participate in the early stages of this societal disruption.  But there is also a risk that OHS could miss out. Continue reading “Me! Me! Me! – OHS needs to grow up for the new world structure”

More work needed on public evacuation protocols

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On 12 July 2017 a kitchen fire broke out in a densely packed restaurant and cafe sector of Melbourne, Australia.  This article illustrates some of the localised response and firefighting attempts.  Earlier that day I was in a cafe in Melbourne’s northern suburbs when the building’s evacuation alarm sounded (pictured right).  There was no fire in the cafe and patrons were confused when directed to evacuate by a voice on the speaker/alarm system.  This confusion was not helped when the young waiters told patrons to stay, kept serving patrons and  continued to take orders.  This experience illustrates significant misunderstandings about emergency protocols in public areas. Continue reading “More work needed on public evacuation protocols”

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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Road safety needs a systems approach to investigations

A company vehicle is a workplace.  This is not a radical statement, or shouldn’t be.  A worker driving the company vehicle is at work, transporting themselves or some goods somewhere as part of the work process. Yet most traffic accidents in Australia are not assessed to determine whether they are work-related and action is rarely taken by the occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators who seem comfortable with their secondary information gathering role in traffic accidents.

With the failure of the trade union movement’s efforts to maintain the existence of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal, others are stepping up pressure on Australia’s government to address some traffic accidents as work-related. And there is some important local independent research that seems to support this push.

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Do open plan offices and sit/stand desks create as many problems as they solve?

The mainstream media regularly includes articles and, increasingly, advertorials, about the modern workplace, usually office buildings, that are designed to foster creativity, communication, productivity and improve physical health.  In many of these workplaces, it quickly becomes apparent that there are never enough meeting rooms for confidential discussions, making the coffee shop in the foyer or a nearby building, essential venues for conversations that would, in the past, be conducted in an office.

It also does not take long for a lot of the workers to be at their desks wearing earbuds or headphones in order to negate the noise that the modern workplace allows and creates.  This need for isolation and concentration is contrary to the intentions of the office designers.  It is not simply a reflection of the modern ipod technology but a human desire for privacy, focus, diligence and productivity.  New research  seems to indicate that the situation is not helped by sit/stand desks.

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