Do OHS workshops work?

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Years ago I was invited to speak at a safety conference and to conduct a workshop.  I cocked up the workshop and realised that my conference presentation would need considerable reworking.  This experience made me shy of speaking engagements for a while but has provided me with a lasting suspicion on conference workshops.

At several conferences recently what was promoted as a presentation by a subject matter expert turned into a workshop where the presenter seeks the wisdom of the audience, the inverse of what should have occurred.  Some enjoy the participation of others in this format but I find better networking and brainstorming occurs in a less formal setting.  My advice is if you enter an auditorium and there is butcher’s paper anywhere in the room, leave.

However, practical workshops linked to safety conferences seem to be gaining in popularity, perhaps because they are easy to administer and promise little more than a “learning experience” where learning is often optional.   Continue reading “Do OHS workshops work?”

Government must restructure to address the evolution of OHS

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The UK government’s Health & Safety Executive is continuously countering poor decisions of local government that are being “blamed” on health and safety.  Recently the Wimbledon tennis open joined the club of misrepresenting risk decisions as health and safety.

England has a unique tabloid journalism that has generated substantial confusion on the role and application of occupational health and safety laws.  Most of the decisions being referred to as health and safety are really public liability concerns and this is where the risk management discipline enters the issue.  Occupational Health and Safety has enlisted the risk management principles to provide a structure for business to assess risk, costs and benefits of working safely.  However this has only worked when there was a clear delineation of workplace.

Over many years, OHS legislation has been allowed to broaden its remit from the shopfloor and factory fence to include those entering a workplace and visitors.  It then grew to include the impacts that any work activity may be having on others.

In Australia, the new definition of a workplace is anywhere where work is undertaken.  The OHS tentacles have penetrated all physical areas of society, although he police force has been struggling with this balance for years.  There is nothing occupational about OHS anymore.  In fact Australia will be dropping “occupational” from its Work Health and Safety legislation from 1 January 2012.  There have been sound reasons for this expansion but we now have to live with the consequences. Continue reading “Government must restructure to address the evolution of OHS”

Media is ignorant of unsafe acts in the photos they use

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That “a picture tells a thousand words”  appears true in regards to safety as it is in most areas.  This is increasingly so in the new online media but what if the picture is wrong?  Does a wrong picture tell a thousand wrong words?

Recently this blog has written many words about quadbikes and the increasing requirement for mandatory helmets.  Many of the agricultural newspapers are now including photos of riders with helmets where previously battered hats were usual.  This trend of pictures reflecting reality or, at least, the current safety practices seems rare.

The image above was used by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation to accompany an article on the in solar panels and rebates. Continue reading “Media is ignorant of unsafe acts in the photos they use”

Australia to ratify ILO OHS Convention, says Senator

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The Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported on 14 June 2011 (not freely available online) that Senator Jacinta Collins has publicly stated that an International Labour Organisation (ILO) occupational health and safety convention will be signed by the current Government in conjunction with other conventions on maritime labour, asbestos and part-time work.  The announcement that “Australia will ratify four ILO Conventions this year” was made at the recent International Labour Conference.

Most of the AFR article focussed on the labour relations impacts of the conventions but RMIT’s Professor of Law, Breen Creighton noted that

“Ratifying a convention has no effect in Australian law unless the Australian parliaments legislate to give effect to the international obligations.”

Senator Collins’ speech identifies the OHS protocol as the “Optional Protocol of 2002 to the Occupational Health and Safety Convention”.

A brief discussion on this protocol occurred on this blog in late April 2011 when the ratification was mentioned during the World Day for Safety and Health at Work.

Kevin Jones

Do Work Health and Safety regulations comply?

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The draft model Work Health and Safety regulations were published for public comment in December last year, but rather than sailing through with general public support (i.e. negligible objection) they were met with incredible public objection, with over 1000 submissions.  This astonishing fact begs the question; has something gone wrong in the WHS legislation making process? Or did the Australian public suddenly have nothing better to do than write all those pages?

You may, or may not, be aware that when legislators want to create legislation there are very solid principles and clear guidelines that legislators must comply with.  These “rules-for-rule-makers” are provided to us courtesy of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR).  And for mine, they are excellent.

The reasons we in Australia have those rules are many but in a nutshell it’s because some governments have over the years proved to be pretty good at creating flawed legislation with unintended or anti-competitive consequences. And some have been pretty good at blustering their rules through to the public and papering over the deficiencies. Continue reading “Do Work Health and Safety regulations comply?”