Australian Governments’ flawed strategy on new OHS laws

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Lawyer Andrew Douglas’ latest article for SmartCompany illustrates the conflicting approach to the enforcement of alcohol and drug policies in workplaces.  Douglas illustrates the constant struggle for business operators between employment law and safety law, workplace relations and human resources.  Case law has progressed the management of human capital more quickly than has safety management over the same workplace issue of alcohol and drug use leading to a difficulty in determining the best managerial approach to the hazard.

Douglas’ discussion of the role of case law in changing managerial approaches also has relevance in the OHS harmonisation process currently occurring in Australia.  In the early days of this process, the legal fraternity believed, and often publicly stated, that the operation of the law will be “ironed out” only after several years of prosecutions and case law.  These statements seem to forget that behind almost all OHS prosecutions are one or more injured workers and the reality is often forgotten when part of a lawyer’s motivation is also to seek a precedent or a clarification of the law. Continue reading “Australian Governments’ flawed strategy on new OHS laws”

Evidence on the need for safe job design

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One reader has provided an example of recent research that supports the previous SafetyAtWorkBlog article on the importance of quality and safety in job creation.

In the March 2011 online edition of the Occupational & Environmental Medicine journal, Australian researchers have analysed data concerning “the psychosocial quality of work”.  According to an accompanying media release (not available online yet) they found that

“The impact on mental health of a badly paid, poorly supported, or short term job can be as harmful as no job at all…” Continue reading “Evidence on the need for safe job design”

Creating jobs is a waste unless those jobs are safe

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Coming out of recession or, at least, a global financial crisis seems to mean that the creation of jobs is the only driver of economic growth.  Governments around the world seem obsessed with employment creation but rarely is the quality of the employment ever considered.

The drive for jobs at the cost of other employment conditions such as safety was illustrated on 11 March 2011 in an article in The Australian newspaper.  New South Wales’ election is only a short while away and, as it is widely considered to be an easy win for the conservative Liberal Party, government policies are already being discussed.

“Industrial relations spokesman Greg Pearce, a former partner at Freehills, said he was aware that concerns about the workplace safety system had emerged in the legal profession.

But the Coalition’s main goal was to minimise uncertainty to encourage job creation.”

The push for jobs is also indicative of short-term political thinking. Continue reading “Creating jobs is a waste unless those jobs are safe”

Raising awareness about stress instead of controlling it

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In March 2011, in response to one of the several Stress Awareness Days, HRLeader magazine ran an edited version of a Personnel Today article called “5 steps to tackle employee stress”.  The Personnel Today had “6 steps”, so are Australian readers being ripped off?

Personnel Today included a step called “Refer the Health and Safety Executive’s management standards”.  HRLeader’s editor must have made the call that HSE information is geographically specific and therefore not relevant to Australia but the change is more indicative of the fact that Australia does not have anything to match the HSE management standards to help control stress.  According to the HSE website:

“….the six Management Standards cover the primary sources of stress at work. These are:

OHS needs innovative thinking to manage fatigue

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The December 2010 edition of WorkForce Management magazine (not available online) reports on a recent US survey concerning fatigue. The raw data is not available but the survey of 820 companies showed that over 80 per cent of respondents believed that fatigue was more of a workplace issue that in the past.

This may indicate an increased awareness or an increased reality but regardless, the hazard is gaining more attention.

Of greater interest is the possible causes identified in the survey. These include:

  • “Reduced head count,
  • Lack of boundaries between home life and work,
  • Second jobs,
  • A culture of ‘wanting to do it all'”.

How many of these contributory factors can an OHS professional affect? Continue reading “OHS needs innovative thinking to manage fatigue”