The Victorian Parliament has been debating legislation the government claims is essential to fix a “broken” workers’ compensation system. There are a lot of elements to what is broken – premium increases, political access to WorkSafe finances, political topping up of WorkSafe finances, high numbers and costs for workplace mental health compensation claims and more. What is largely missing is a discussion on the prevention of mental health injuries at work.
South Australia’s Industrial Manslaughter Bill is being negotiated in its Parliament. New South Wales’ version is in development, and Tasmania has said it does not want to be left out, so the government has flagged its intention to have Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws. Each politician stresses the importance of these laws to deter employers from doing the wrong thing and causing the death of a worker. However, there are serious concerns about the intended deterrent effect when other occupational health and safety (OHS) measures have been shown to be more effective.
One supplier of synthetic stone products to Australia, Cosentino, is in the mainstream media after an appearance on a popular television home renovations show on the Nine Network, The Block. Several occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals and organisations have raised concerns about how the product was discussed and presented on a recent episode. The best coverage of this matter has been by an ABC television program, MediaWatch.
MediaWatch revealed the importance of listening to how dangerous products are described and how the guidance of OHS Regulators can be interpteed or manipulated.
Many companies have policies for driving work and company vehicles safely. Distracted driving has been identified as a high risk activity that contributes to injuries and deaths of road users. Recently, the Victorian road safety regulator introduced bans on touching mobile phones while driving. This has caused enormous debate, mostly from those who do not want to change their habits, about the safety of workers and others on the road.
Although not in Australia, this example in the UK Daily Telegraph (paywalled) on September 22, 2023, illustrates an example of very distracted driving, lying and hypocrisy.
Ten years ago, I was enlightened by a presentation on masculinity and occupational health and safety (OHS) by Dean Laplonge at a safety conference in Canberra. He has continued researching that interconnection, and visiting WA and recently released his latest report written for WorkSafe WA after a series of “roadshows”.
After years of scandals in what has been described as the epitome of toxic masculinity, the West Australian mining industry claims to have changed its culture and created a psychologically safer work environment. Culture-As-Usual was not an option after multiple exposures of work-related suicides, sexual assaults, and harassment uncovered by independent and parliamentary inquiries. Laplonge revisited Western Australia and reported on the progress.
Every so often, the spokespeople for occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators spread the public speaking load by having divisional heads speak at health and safety events. This week WorkSafe Victoria’s Director of Investigations, Peter Collins (pictured below), spoke at a breakfast seminar for the Australian Institute of Health and Safety, hosted by Herbert Smith Freehills. His presentation seemed like a prepared generic presentation which was okay but uninspiring. Given the nature of the investigations and prosecutions job, it should not have been a surprise that Collins was restricted on many of the topics he could speak of.
These AIHS seminars have been running annually for around 15 years and the Institute for decades, so there are some in the audience with long memories. Collins mentioned the persistent workplace hazards, such as manual handling and falls from heights, and
Psychological safety at work is often referred to as a recent phenomenon or as an emerging risk. The hazard has captured people’s attention in Australia primarily because of a “mental health tsunami” that many relate to the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns and so forth.
WorkSafe Victoria released guidance on workplace bullying and occupational violence in the late 1990s and early 2000s. And in 2006 advised this in one of its office safety publications: