A shaky start leads to a terrific book on incident investigation by Michael Tooma

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There is one word that should not be used as an adjective in relation to workplace fatalities – impacted. Workers fall from roofs and the concrete floor has an impact on them. Workers hit by mobile plant or crushed in machines die from the impact. An impact results from the transfer of energy and this transfer of energy in workplaces can kill.

“Impacted” is used by those who do not feel comfortable differentiating between “affect” and “effect” and it is surprising to find the term used in the opening chapter of Michael Tooma’s latest book, Due Diligence: Incident Notification, Management and Investigation.

“Unless you have been involved in a serious incident, you don’t really appreciate how an incident will affect you. For every worker killed at work, there is a grieving mother, father, spouse and/or child. Their co-workers are impacted. Their friends are impacted. Management, guilt-ridden as they are in the aftermath of an incident, sometimes for good reason, sometimes not, are also personally and emotionally impacted. The tragedy touches everyone. In the midst of it all, a group of people are tasked with managing through the chaos and trying to get answers for all those impacted by the tragedy. This book is for them.”

The sentiment is correct and true but read the paragraph aloud and it sounds absurd. And why the overuse of “impacted” when a perfectly suitable word, “affect”, was used in the first sentence?

And this clumsy opening does the book a disservice. Tooma has repeatedly stated that this is a safety book written by a lawyer and not a legal book written about safety. This is a major change from a major Australian OHS publisher. It is a recognition that the readership is not lawyers feeding on lawyers but people wanting to understand workplace safety. Continue reading “A shaky start leads to a terrific book on incident investigation by Michael Tooma”

Where do workers and managers learn about respect?

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The origins of workplace bullying behaviour seem many.  One of the issues to, hopefully, emerge from Australia’s inquiry into workplace bullying is how to prevent and minimise bullying, but to do so, one will need to identify the causes.  And these causes need to be more than an amorphous, unhelpful concept like “workplace culture”.

David Yamadamake this comment in his blog, “Minding the Workplace“, about a recent article in a New York Times blog (gosh, social media feeds social media.  What’s a newspaper, Daddy?):

“Doctors and lawyers in training may have no idea how to conduct themselves as practitioners, other than being influenced by a lot of unfortunate “role models” on television. If we want to prevent workplace bullying, the training schools for these professions are the first and perhaps best places to start.”

This point links thematically to several recent SafetyAtWorkBlog articles about defining a safety profession, moving from a practice to a profession, workplace culture and workplace bullying. Continue reading “Where do workers and managers learn about respect?”

Australian employer group doesn’t “get” workplace bullying

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Garry Brack is the head of the Australian Federation of Employers and Industries (AFEI), formerly known as Employers First which summarises the industrial philosophy of the organisation.  In the past he has stated that OHS laws are not necessary but this week he has upset the parents of Brodie Panlock by emphasising a failed love affair between Brodie and a work colleague and downplaying the  instances of abuse and bullying that drove Brodie Panlock to jump to her death.

The comments on the ABC Lateline program echo his comments at the public hearing in Sydney of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying. (The Hansard of his presentation is not yet available online although the AFEI submission to the inquiry is)  Brack’s position is difficult to understand as the Inquiry submission and his words at the hearing display a poor understanding of how other organisations and experts (and Brodie’s parents) see workplace bullying.

The AFEI submission says

“What concerns employers is the breadth of these [bullying] definitions which allow a limitless range of actions and behaviour to be construed as bullying by workers – in all jurisdictions. This is where the regulatory difficulty lies. It is not that there are differences in regulatory requirements but that compliance is impossible to achieve. This is because the concept of workplace bullying, as viewed by regulators, is not confined to recklessness, intimidation, aggressive or violent acts, threatening actions or behaviour, verbal abuse or an actual risk to health and safety. It may be anything from a customer demanding faster service or just complaining (even over the phone) to setting deadlines or changing work hours.”

There are several nonsensical statements here.  The Parliamentary Inquiry is not an investigation of regulations, it is an inquiry into workplace bullying.   Continue reading “Australian employer group doesn’t “get” workplace bullying”

Lessons for everyone in the legal action against France Telecom executives over suicides

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In 2009-10, SafetyAtWorkBlog followed the unfolding and tragic story of the spate of suicides at France Telecome that were directly related to the change of work practices and organisational policies instigated after privatisation.  SafetyAtWorkBlog stated that the suicides could be considered to be a case study of poor personnel management and, in more recent parlance, a failure of safety leadership.  This month French authorities have begun investigating France Telecom executives.

According to an AFP report in early July 2012:

“Louis-Pierre Wenes was placed under investigation on Thursday, a day after former France Telecom chief Didier Lombard, for workplace harassment, his lawyer Frederique Beaulieu said.”

At the time of the suicides Wenes was Deputy CEO and Lombard was CEO.

Interestingly and curiously, workplace bullying is not a term used in the France Telecome situation, although it may have met the criteria that Australia applies. Continue reading “Lessons for everyone in the legal action against France Telecom executives over suicides”

Through Wilful Blindness I begin to see

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Put your hand over your ears and start saying La La La La La La La.  That is willful blindness (or, technically,deafness, but let’s not quibble).

Margaret Heffernan, author of a new paperback edition of  “Wilful Blindness  – Why we ignore the obvious at our peril“, discovered wilful blindness while researching the trial of the Enron executives.  Heffernan says that

“Judge [Simeon] Lake was applying the legal principle of wilful blindness: you are responsible if you could have known, and should have known, something which instead you strove not to see.” (page 1)

Heffernan’s book is not simply a new book on business management. Heffernan acknowledges that wilful blindness is not limited to a workplace, person or management theory.  She also says wilful blindness is not always a negative.  It is this breadth of approach to the topic that increases the worthiness of her book. Continue reading “Through Wilful Blindness I begin to see”