Workplace safety in correctional facilities

In support of the recent SafetyAtWorkBlog article “Detention Royal Commission touches on workplace safety”, WorkSafe NT was contacted with a series of questions about the role of the Northern Territory’s occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator in detention centres.  Those questions comprised:

• Has WorkSafe ever undertaken any inspection activities at detention centres in the Northern Territory?  If so, what was there a specific request, incident or other catalyst for this?
• Is there a specific group/team of inspectors under whom responsibility for inspecting detention centres would sit?
• Does NTWorkSafe coordinate any WHS inspection activities with other government agencies and authorities?
• Has the Northern Territory Correctional Services ever requested NTWorkSafe’s assistance in safety reviews of their facilities?

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Detention Royal Commission touches on workplace safety

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In June 2016, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation showed an investigation report into the detention of children who had broken the law in the Northern Territory.  The revelations of maltreatment were so confronting that a Royal Commission was announced by the Australian Government very shortly after.  The Commission’s final report was tabled in Parliament on November 17 2017.

All Australian workplaces are subject to clear occupational health and safety duties and obligations that relate to workers and to those who may be affected by the workplace and activities.  (The SafetyAtWorkBlog article “Royal Commission into juvenile detention should include OHS” discusses this at length.)

A brief search of the Final Report of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory shows an acknowledgement of the OHS perspective but with little discussion of it. Continue reading “Detention Royal Commission touches on workplace safety”

Improve the profession by improving the professionals

The occupational safety profession (OHS) in Australia is often described as being populated by older white males, as being dull and ill-informed.  This perception has generated offshoots such as Women in Safety and Health, and Young Safety Professionals (YSP) with similar actions occurring in many other professions. It is easier than ever to develop professional groups that better address one’s needs but this can miss out on opportunities to change those older white males who are prepared to listen and learn.

These subgroups can often be more innovative than the larger profession events, partly because they are smaller, but also because their audience has different expectations and capacities. Recently

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Passing the OHS baton

Leo Ruschena has been a fixture in the occupational health and safety (OHS) scene in Victoria Australia for many years.  In a short while he retires from his work as an OHS Lecturer with RMIT University.  Retirement often means that knowledge and wisdom becomes less accessible to the public so SafetyAtWorkBlog spent some time with him recently and asked him to reflect.

Ruschena began his career as a chemical engineer with an economics degree working for nine years at Mount Isa Mines. In the mid -1970s he received a scholarship to study occupational hygiene in London UK, achieving his Masters.  At that time OHS was an emerging area of study, legislation and political discourse.  As Ruschena sees it:

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OHS is PHS (public health and safety) but government needs to catch up

The Australian Human Rights Commission has released a report into the prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault in Australia’s university campuses. It has revealed some shocking statistics and brings Australian universities into the global phenomenon of reassessing university obligations for the modern world.

Australia’s occupational health and safety laws and obligations could be used as a structure for preventing assaults and harassment if the government and universities would be brave enough to use them.

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