OHS Strategy to nowhere 6

Throughout 2011, Safe Work Australia (SWA) has been conducting consultative workshops in the development of the next ten-year National OHS Strategy.  SafetyAtWorkBlog reported previously on the Melbourne meeting.  SWA has released their report into that Melbourne meeting.

The meeting had a set of criteria for the stakeholders to consider.  Sadly, there was no forewarning of the issues to be discussed so the workshop took some time to gain traction.  With only one day of consultation, it would have been more productive to release the agenda topics a day or two earlier.  These topics, each of which could have generated at least a half-day’s debate, are listed below

“Social/Economic/Emerging Issues in the Workforce, Business and Technology…

Hazards – Enhancing the capacity of workplaces to respond to:

  • Disease-Causing Hazards …
  • Injury-Causing Hazards …
  • Psychological Injury-Causing Hazards …

Work Health and Safety Systems – Challenges and Solutions in Safe Design and Work Systems, Skills and Training, and in Safety Leadership and Organisational Culture…..”

The report has responses to each of these topics but many of the suggestions are already known.  The lack of creativity in the suggestions is largely disappointing.  The responses to “what will success looks like in ten years” are mostly extensions of programs that are already in place or a perpetuation of the “way things are done now”.  Innovation was largely missing, perhaps due to the participants not being able to lose their own agendas.  The earlier SafetyAtWorkBlog article discussed the negative impact of the shadow of harmonisation, a term found only once in SWA’s report. More…

Work-related suicide gains some fresh media recognition 12

On 4 November 2011, Victoria’s 7.30 program broadcast a heart-rending story about the suicide of a woman who, her mother believes, took this action after suffering chronic pain due a work-related incident and being given insufficient support from her employer and workers’ compensation bodies.  The story of Rebecca Wallis (spelling uncertain) apparently generated sufficient communication to the Australian Broadcast Corporation for 7.30 to undertake a follow-up and more broad look at the relationship between workers compensation and suicide.

One of the people interviewed in the 11 November 2011 program was John Bottomley of the Creative Ministries Network.  Bottomley has published several research reports on work-related deaths and suicides.  The figures he mentions in the report, that around 30% of the work-related suicides identified in his research had a “work injury or work-related mental illness” as a contributory factor, are included in the online publication from 2002, “Work Factors in Suicide“.  What is not mentioned is another statistic in his report:

“Nine people (8%) were on workers’ compensation when they committed suicide.” (page iii) More…

Australia risks OHS ridicule in the media 6

The Sunday Herald-Sun ran an article that would not have been out-of-place in the English tabloid newspapers.  The article, “Safety regulations taking the fun out of schools”, indicates many of the confused lines of responsibility that English articles include.

In Victoria, the safety requirements of government schools are determined by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD).  The OHS regulator, WorkSafe, has some influence but far less that DEECD. (The only really school-related OHS document from WorkSafe Victoria was released in 2008)

The Sunday Herald-Sun article states, in some pictures not in the online version, that the Victorian Principals Association has been told of OHS regulations that require teachers to  “put on mask, surgical gloves to apply a band-aid”.  More…

Some journeys should never be needed 2

Relatives of people who have died in workplaces regularly complain about the lack of communication from OHS regulators and other government and legal agencies who are charged with investigating an incident.  A recent example of this is Ann Maitland whose daughter, Michelle, died in a gymnastics class in 2009, but Ann Maitland took action and the safety level of gymnastics classes, and many other workplaces,  is likely to improve considerably as a result.

Prior to discussing the government’s report into gymnastics safety, it is worth acknowledging the arduous journey that Ann Maitland ( an occasional commenter on this blog) undertook.

In response to complaints by Ann Maitland, the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney-General engaged conducted an independent review of the actions of Work Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ)  in relation to Michelle Maitland’s death.  The review report found that

“A key deficiency highlighted by Mr Byrne was the inadequate communication with Ann Maitland. He further adds that “any similar situation in the future by the creation of the liaison officer position”. In this regard the Investigations Liaison Support Officer position was implemented in January 2011.”

There were several other recommendations from the review for WHSQ to tighten up enforcement procedures.  The fact that an independent review was conducted at all is a major win for Ann Maitland and other Queensland families.  The fact that such an independent review was required at all should be a matter of great concern. More…

Explosive near-miss deserves safety investigation 1

There was a brief ABC report from Western Australia on 12 November 2011 about a young man receiving serious burns from an industrial explosion.  Information is scant on this incident in the press but SafetyAtWorkBlog has been told that the incident occurred at drinks after work.  As the incident is not considered related to work, WorkSafeWA is unlikely to be involved with any investigation.

This seems an odd situation as it is reported that the serious injury occurred “when a large engine exploded in an industrial yard”!

Young worker + alcohol (potentially) + industrial workplace = a serious near miss, if nothing else.

It is hoped that whoever investigates the incident shares some of the findings so that important OHS lessons will be offered.  WorkSafeWA seems to be the logical choice for investigator but we will have to wait to see who takes the lead.

Kevin Jones