Worker democracy reappears and OHS needs to be ready 4

Tripartite consultation of occupational health and safety (OHS) is largely a relic of the past. It remains in the structure of government policy formulation and in workplace safety legislation but, largely due to the decline in trade union presence in Australian workplaces; OHS consultation occurs more linearly than through formalised tripartism.

A recent example of contemporary consultation, that is likely to include OHS, was reported on in The Guardian newspaper on 17 July 2016. The incoming UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, wants to encourage the inclusion of a worker on company boards.  It is a curious suggestion from a Conservative Prime Minister which has been leapt on as “workplace democracy” by some commentators. The workplace democracy or “industrial democracy” push is not a new idea and was once seriously proposed in 1977 but, according to an article in The Conversation, the political time was not right.  Whether that time is now is debatable. More…

If worker engagement is lacking, reassess the product 2

Australian companies continue to introduce workplace wellness programs when the evidence for their effectiveness is still weak.  A major reason for this weakness is that many workers do not see health and wellness as part of the workplace’s role. It is also a problem that the American motivation for workplace wellness is not relevant to Australia.

What’s perhaps more worrying is that wellness programs often get more prominence than occupational health and safety interventions that do work but are less “sexy”.

A March 2016 article in EHS Today illustrates some of these issues.

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Selective duty of care being applied by the Australian Government 5

Australia’s work health and safety (WHS) laws confirmed the modern approach to workplace safety legislation and compliance where workers and businesses are responsible for their own safety and the safety of others who may be affected by the work.  The obligations to others existed before the latest WHS law reforms but it was not widely enforced.  The Grocon wall collapse in Victoria and the redefinition of workplace in many Australian jurisdictions through the OHS harmonisation program gave the obligation more prominence but has also caused very uncomfortable challenges for the Australian government – challenges that affect how occupational health and safety is applied in Australian jurisdictions. More…

When culture has an agenda 2

The topic of culture is a critical consideration in the improvement of occupational health and safety (OHS). Each company should be aiming for a an active and healthy workplace and safety culture but the term “culture” continues to be difficult to define and poorly understood by the community.

SafetyAtWorkBlog has written about the culture discussion as it relates to Australia’s finance and banking sectors but one of the areas of most active culture discussions is industrial relations which has a much closer relationship with workplace safety.  A recent opinion piece by three major employer associations illustrates another problem with the debate. More…

Miserable failures in OHS of labour hire workers 3

Two recent occupational health and safety (OHS) prosecutions in South Australia related to labour hire employees and providers indicate changes in enforcement approach and clues for change as they illustrate how some people and companies have almost no regard for the safety of its employees.

According to a SafeWorkSA media release dated 28 May 2016 (not available online at the time of writing):

“The Industrial Court convicted Queensland based labour hire company, Fix Force (Qld) Pty Ltd, and imposed a penalty of $150 000 plus court costs.

On 22 October 2012, Mr Clinton Benson, a contracted employee on the South Road Superway project, suffered life threatening injuries when his head was crushed between a lifting arm and welding table.

Following investigation by SafeWork SA, Fix Force (Qld) Pty Ltd was charged with offences under the then Occupational Health Safety and Welfare Act 1986 (SA), for failure to ensure its employee was safe from injury and risk to health whist at work, as far as was reasonably practicable.”

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