Remote housing audit action by Queensland government

The Queensland government has responded to the assessment reports on staff housing which includes the housing in remote locations.  The initiatives are good for the most part but it has to be noted that the motivation for action came from foreseeable, unjustified attacks on workers in isolated locations.  The safety status of the accommodation was…

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When safety footwear is not enough

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Recently I purchased a pair of safety shoes.  My principal concern was comfort and with this in mind I purchased a pair of steel-toed Dunlop Volley tennis shoes.  These shoes have a cloth upper and a very successful non-slip tread.  Apparently, the Dunlop Volleys are the footwear of choice for roof-tilers but I don’t access roofs often. (I first saw plain Dunlop Volleys in prison workshops as the shoes were also the first choice for prisoners.)

The last worksite I wore my safety boots at was a milk factory in Victoria where the non-slip tread would have been very suitable but the canvas uppers, not.  The milk room, and elsewhere, was awash with water for swilling away spills. The Volley safety shoes would have been inappropriate at such a workplace but they have complied with the OHS policies in the workplace?

This question emphasises the need to establish broad OHS policies but to police specifically.  The safety of the wearer would be determined by the enforcement of a policy and not the policy itself. When preparing any safety document that stipulates specific requirements and preconditions, it is necessary to test the policies for suitability in your particular workplace.  What works in one workplace may be okay for yours but you need to establish its suitability and practicability by looking at how the policy will be enforced.

Back to Basics

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According to an Associated Press report (and appearing elsewhere) on 11 May 2007

Labour officials from the Group of Eight industrialised nations began a three-day meeting today to seek ways of reducing workplace emissions of “greenhouse” gases blamed for global warming, officials said………. Japan hopes to lead the discussions with its experience of so-called “Cool-Biz” – a no-tie, no-jacket summer campaign it launched in 2005 to curb greenhouse gas emissions by limiting the use of air conditioning, Kyodo News agency reported.

Isn’t it about time we learnt that windows can be opened?

Safety as an “old boy’s club”

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One of the biggest handicaps modern professional organisations have is that many of them are “old boys’ clubs”.  Often this is not the fault of the executive committees or boards as this is the way in which professional organisations and associations, in particular, have evolved.

However, it is difficult to understand why committees allow the clique, the elites, the dinosaurs, to persist.  Some are in denial or are blind to the fact that all the members are of a similar age, background and attitude.  Others recognise the handicap but don’t know what to do.  The worst are those who impose racial or gender quotas without considering the broader impact on the association of this approach.

Organisations need to undertake a staged restructure of all elements of administration, promotion and operation to ensure that there is a future for, what in most cases are, worthy institutions.

What is very surprising is that, often, these organisations have the skills to achieve a positive outcome as the membership provides this sort of advice to clients.  The skills are there when providing a service but are absent when within their own organisation.

The inability to change is a trait we see in the most Luddite of professional associations.  The un-willingness to change is a trait that it is hard to forgive.
The reality is occupational health and safety is changing radically around the world with new hazards, new control measures, new political demands, new agenda and new health initiatives.  Few professional associations are managing to keep up; some are looking in the opposite direction.

WorkSafe and (maybe) WorkHealth

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Earlier this year, the Victorian Premier, John Brumby, announced a workplace program called WorkHealth.  This illness prevention program is to be funded from WorkCover premium income and will focus on combatting health issues such as diabetes, cholesterol and obesity.

The rationale for the program is that poor health is contributing to workplace injuries and impeding rehabilitation.

There are several odd elements about the program.  Firstly, its introduction was announced without WorkSafe Victoria’s knowledge, even the program is to be administered through that agency.

Secondly, the trade union movement was not involved in the program development.  I am often critical of trade union influence being beyond its real level of support (look at New South Wales politics to see the complexities of this) but in any OHS program it is necessary to prepare the ground.  The Victorian government did not do this, for whatever reason, so now should not be surprised if the program comes under suspicion and the unions are hesitant to support.

WorkHealth is an odd mix of public health promotion and workplace health reaction.  There is support for such an approach from European initiatives and some Australian States are broadening OHS.  But in both these circumstances, the programs are developed through traditional structures ensuring participation and “ownership”.

What is most interesting is that at a recent WorkSafe-sponsored OHS conference in Melbourne, John Merritt,  Executive Director of WorkSafe made no mention of this three-month-old $600 million government program even though he was talking about future WorkSafe initiatives.  He showed a new TV ad.  He spoke about increased toughness on enforcement.  But he did not mention WorkHealth.

Kevin Jones