Prohibition on Administrative Controls for psychological health at work

The Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) annual breakfast physically returned this month after a few years of enforced absence. It kept its traditional structure – speeches from the local OHS regulator WorkSafe Victoria, representatives from HSF and AIHS and a summary of a salary survey report focused on occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals. The presentation that made the expense worthwhile came from one of HSF’s Regional Heads of Practice, Steve Bell, concerning new regulations for psychologically healthy workplaces.

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Anger is an energy*

Last week a Victorian politician and a senior bureaucrat spoke about occupational health and safety (OHS) at the Worksafe Victoria awards night. On April 28, 2022, the same bureaucrat and a couple of other politicians spoke at the International Workers Memorial at Trades Hall in Melbourne. Did they say anything useful? Did they say anything that changes or progresses OHS? And who was the audience?

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How will people know you’ve won a safety award?

Modern-day events such as conferences, seminars and awards nights rely on social media strategies to maximise the value of the event and the communication opportunities they afford. This year the WorkSafe Victoria Awards night seems to have applied a thin social media strategy even though it has important stories to tell.

Usually, signs, brochures, information booklets and even tables mention the social media hashtag that the event organisers want the audience to use to promote and record the event. This year WorkSafe Victoria mentioned #WSAwards21 at the night’s start and never again. The hashtag was nowhere to be seen. This may be a major factor in the very low Twitter activity.

As of the time of writing, Twitter had 29 mentions of the #WSAwards21 hashtag, most posted by WorkSafe itself. I tweeted five of them. The audience members or finalists have tweeted only three times.

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OHS record restated, but employers omitted

The WorkSafe Awards night for 2021 was postponed a couple of times from its traditional date in Workplace Health and Safety Month, October. The April 21, 2022, event held the potential for a political statement, given that 2022 is an election year for Victoria, and the event was held one week before International Workers Memorial Day. No such luck. We may have to wait for October 2022, a month before the November election.

The Minister for Workplace Safety, Ingrid Stitt, could not attend, but Bronwyn Halfpenny, the Parliamentary Secretary for Workplace Safety, did. Halfpenny is very active in occupational health and safety (OHS) and the government’s working group of bereaved families, but her speech at the awards event reiterated the government’s OHS reforms. Like other members of the government, she gives a great deal of significance to Industrial Manslaughter changes. These changes have generated fear at senior management levels but little difference in employers’ commitment to improving workplace safety and health. A big stick is pointless unless it is used and used as intended.

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WorkSafe Victoria awards were hit and miss

Last week WorkSafe Victoria finally held its awards night for 2021. The finalists were deserved winners, but compared to previous pre-COVID awards nights, this one was sedate and sometimes flat. SafetyAtWorkBlog will be looking at some of the issues raised by the awards ceremony in a series of articles this week.

The crowd was much smaller than in previous years. This could have been due to the event having been postponed, I think twice, but it could also indicate a lower importance for this type of event. Many of the usual attendees seemed missing – occupational health and safety (OHS) and workplace relations law firms, major companies, industry associations and CEOs, and those who are not finalists but appreciate the opportunity to network with significant players in Victorian OHS.

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Farm safety is unique, not

Australian farmers feel they work in a unique safety culture into which work health and safety laws have intruded. This intrusion by government and bureaucrats will persist regardless of the number of work-related incidents that happen to farmers, workers and relatives and the children of farmers.

All farmers and parents advise their workers and relatives to be safe, but this applies a broader range of safety to what is considered in cities and other industries. As far as is reasonably practicable (ASFAIRP) takes up a bigger, greyer range of safety on farms.

This uniqueness and occupational health and safety (OHS) perspective were on display in a recent farm safety article in The Weekly Times, a major Australian agricultural newspaper. The article “Farm Safety Focus Urged to Avoid Tragic Consequences”*, looked at two scenarios. One involved a childhood horse racing injury and a later adult motorcycle traffic collision (Dave Lovick); the other was an adult work-related quadbike incident (Kat Gration).

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It’s all about the context

Occupational health and safety (OHS) should prevent any of its conference speakers from ever using the image of an iceberg or a triangle to illustrate managerial theories. The images are valid but have been done to death in conferences over the last decade.

I came to this position when recently reading a very short article on Systems Thinking by Veronica Hotton in Dumbo Feather magazine. Hotton used the iceberg as a visual metaphor for what can be seen and what is less visible but equally influential and much larger than the visible top.

Her article is a very good, succinct explanation of systems thinking for the general reader, but I was less interested in the iceberg and more in the ocean.

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