For What Steve Bell Tells – OHS issues for 2017

Steve Bell is a partner with Hebert Smith Freehills (HSF) in Melbourne, Australia.  As many law firms do, HSF conducts several events each year to inform clients and others of occupational health and safety (OHS) and labour relations issues.  In March 2017 Bell, who is the regular host at these events, spoke at a breakfast seminar held jointly with the Safety Institute of Australia, and identified several safety issues as becoming prominent in 2017:

  • Increased penalties
  • The risk of complacency
  • Increased interplay between OHS and industrial relations
  • Focus on public safety elements of OHS
  • the review of regulations.

Below are some thoughts on the issues raised by Steve Bell.

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OHS changes to come in wake of the Western Australia election result

It is rare to find an occupational health and safety (OHS) seminar that is captivating but there is almost always some useful bits of safety information, hopefully enough to make attendance worthwhile.

On March 24, 2017 the Safety Institute of Australia and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) held the annual breakfast seminar in Melbourne.  Speakers included representatives from the HSF law firm, the SIA, WorkSafe Victoria and SafeSearch.  Perhaps of most interest was HSF’s senior associate from Perth, Sam Witton (pictured), who outlined the OHS changes likely in Western Australia now the Australian Labor Party (ALP) is in power.

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US says “nothing to see here, move along”

The United States media continues to scrutinise the Department of Labor (DoL).  On March 13 2017, The New York Times (NYT) expressed concerns about the lack of official media releases from the department, comparing the actions under a Trump administration against the Obama occupational health and safety (OHS) strategy.  Some are claiming this to be a deliberate strategy but, until the Labor Secretary is confirmed, it may simply be caution.  Such an apparently simple action can have broader effects on OHS management, as Australia learnt. Continue reading “US says “nothing to see here, move along””

OHS and Professor Lin Fritschi

Professor Lin Fritschi is a cancer epidemiologist with a particular interest in occupational causes of cancer. Lin’s work often pops up in the occupational health and safety (OHS) sector and research journals but SafetyAtWorkBlog has never met her and wondered what she thought about OHS.

This article is the latest in the series of hearing different voices from academics and prominent workplace safety people.

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Gender diversity and effective decision making

As part of the research for a recent article on Gender and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to interview Lisa Griffiths, Chief Executive Officer of OzChild and former General Manager Health and Safety at WorkSafe Victoria. Gender equality and diversity may no seem to be an OHS issue but it is a vital element of the legislative obligation to consult and the business imperative of making that decision-making process to be a robust and effective as possible.  Too many past decisions have come from group-think and “yes men” and diversity of thought through diversity of person is desperately needed in modern safety management.

Below are some of the questions put to her, and her responses Continue reading “Gender diversity and effective decision making”

When is a workplace, not a workplace

(Not Reedy Flat)

On 20 February 2017, WorkSafe Victoria issued a media statement about several recent fatalities.  Below is the first couple of paragraphs with some highlighted text:

“Two men were killed and another suffered critical head injuries in three separate incidents at the weekend.
On Saturday, a man in his late 30s died when his quad bike overturned on a property at Reedy Flat, near Ensay, in east Gippsland. It has not yet been determined if the property is a workplace or a hobby farm.” (emphasis added)

Why was the status of the farm mentioned and how is this relevant?

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The challenges for Trump’s (Plan B) Labor Secretary could be huge and disruptive

Following the resignation of Andrew Puzder, President Trump has nominated Alexander Acosta to be the new Labor Secretary.  The United States media, generally, has been supportive of the nomination particularly in comparison to Puzder. However, there was a particular line in the President’s media conference that may indicate his approach to safety legislation and regulations.

“We’ve directed the elimination of regulations that undermine manufacturing and call for expedited approval of the permits needed for America and American infrastructure and that means plant, equipment, roads, bridges, factories.” (emphasis added)

President Trump’s plans for cutting regulatory red tape was forecast during his election campaign when he stated that regulations:

“…  just stopping businesses from growing.”

President Trump or his Labor Secretary nominees have not mentioned occupational health and safety (OHS) specifically but the

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“Every death is manslaughter”

The South Australian Branch of the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) held a protest rally in Adelaide on 15 February 2017 in response to the political negotiations in Australia’s Parliament about the reintroduction of, what the union sees as, anti-union legislation.  Throughout the rally’s presentations (available online through the CFMEU Facebook page), the issue of occupational health and safety (OHS) was raised and it is worth looking closely at what was said and the broader political and safety context.

The issues to be addressed in the protest rally included Senator Nick Xenophon’s “deal” with Prime Minister Turnbull that the CFMEU claims will:

  • ” Make our workplaces less safe
  • Put more overseas visa workers on our building sites
  •  Cut the number of apprentices in South Australia
  •  Threaten job security and increase casual jobs
  •  Fail to mandate Australian made products on construction sites”

After Joe McDonald opened the rally, the Secretary of the CFMEU SA, Aaron Cartledge (pictured above), spoke about how workers in South Australia had been dudded on safety because the health and safety representatives (HSRs) cannot call on external safety advisers to help them with an OHS matter.  This may be the case but Cartledge’s comments illustrate a common perspective of trade unionists – a reluctance to consider safety management strategies other than those dependent on HSRs.

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OHS and Maryam Omari

Maryam Omari is an Associate Professor at Edith Cowan University and Dean of its School of Business and Law. She has worked in the Middle East, UK and USA and SafetyAtWorkBlog had a chance to ask her some workplace safety questions. Professor Omari has published several books with her latest being “Workplace Abuse, Incivility and Bullying: Methodological…

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How much attention should we give to gender in OHS?

I once had to stop a potential fight on a construction site between a works supervisor and a safety professional.  The verbal abuse and niggling occurred for several minutes before the men’s chest were inflated like roosters and it was at this point I stepped in to diffuse the situation by asking some questions as…

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