Performance Management may be key to building a safe workplace culture

Occupational safety advice and incident investigations are peppered with the need to have an improved workplace culture.  In some ways, workplace culture is another, and broader, way of saying of “system of work”, a concept that has existed in Australian OHS laws for a long time but never received the prominence of clarity it deserved.  But how does one develop an improved workplace culture and system of work?  Performance Management seems to be one option.

Performance management is well established in the human resources (HR) discipline but the OHS implications are just being acknowledged in the safety discipline.  The concept has been mentioned several times in the public hearings of Australia’s inquiry into workplace bullying as a positive and potential negative.

According to Associate Professor Robin Kramar (now Professor of Human Resource Management at the Australian Catholic University) of  in the 2004/2005 edition of CCH’s Australian Master Human Resources Guide, performance management is

“..a way of encouraging behaviour that supports organisational objectives.” (page 19)

This is particularly relevant to the management and removal of psychosocial hazards that safety professionals are increasingly being called on to address or to assist with. Continue reading “Performance Management may be key to building a safe workplace culture”

Workplace bullying inquiry followed the script, mostly

The Melbourne public hearing in support of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying has concluded after over an hour of personal impact statements that were confronting, saddening but, overall, defiant.

The hearing began more sedately and predictable. The employers’ association, ACCI, says that workplace bullying is a broad social issue that needs broad social control measure. In rough translation, “it’s not our problem”. The employers also see everything in terms of industrial relations so prevention of harm rarely features in recommendations.

The ACTU stressed that workplace bullying IS a workplace issue and therefore should be principally “managed” under occupational health and safety laws. Continue reading “Workplace bullying inquiry followed the script, mostly”

More details of the costs of managing safety required from OHS regulators

In a recent edition of Safety Express, a newsletter from WorkSafe Victoria, Clarke Martin outlined the benefits of WorkSafe’s Owner Visit program to one regional company.  This good news story needed more depth and detail so Clark Martin provided SafetyAt WorkBlog with additional information.

The Safety Express article outlined that a company of over 200 employees gained advice through WorkSafe’s free 6-hour consultancy service and has

“…made significant savings in insurance premiums over a two-year period. The financial and safety benefits are continuing today.”

“The company agreed to make significant changes to the way the business managed its OHS and RTW, and the financial management of premium costs.”

“WorkSafe worked with the company for two years and in this time the EPR dropped to just 34 per cent above average and work is continuing to further improve its performance. The company advised WorkSafe that savings achieved from reduced insurance premiums was equivalent to the profits on producing and selling an additional $16m of product.” Continue reading “More details of the costs of managing safety required from OHS regulators”

Workplace bullying in the police force illustrates the challenges of change management

There are two newspaper reports in Australia on 21 June 2012 about the Victorian Police Force that illustrate a fractious safety culture and a major organisational and ideological impediment to reducing workplace bullying.

The Australian article ” OPI concedes failure against force’s culture” (only available to subscribers) states that:

‘The Office of Police Integrity has conceded it and other corruption fighting measures have failed to root out the entrenched culture of reprisals and mateship in pockets of the Victoria Police that seriously harms the force….”

“The OPI says current law fails to deal with why whistleblowers are targeted. ‘‘The legislated protections against retaliation do not address the root cause of reprisal — a workplace culture of misguided loyalty,’’ it argues.  “The protections are individualistic and short-term, tending to ‘look after’ victims and potential victims of reprisal rather than address why reprisal occurs.’’

“Despite the subsequent formation of the OPI and the beefing up of the Ombudsman’s powers, police still struggled to break free of the shackles of loyalty and the so-called brotherhood.’

The Age article, “A fifth of police bullied at work“, reports on a government survey circulated to 14,000 people.

‘The figures, provided to The Age, mean about 1250 of the 4200 police staff who completed the survey have seen bullying behaviour, while nearly 900 say they have been bullied.’ Continue reading “Workplace bullying in the police force illustrates the challenges of change management”

Through Wilful Blindness I begin to see

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”

OHS inspections save businesses money

A recent article in Science about OHS inspections has gained considerable attention after Michael Blanding wrote about the findings in a Harvard Business School blog. According to the executive summary:

“In a natural field experiment, researchers [ Associate Professor Michael W. Toffel and colleague David I. Levine] found that companies subject to random OSHA inspections showed a 9.4 percent decrease in injury rates compared with uninspected firms.

The researchers found no evidence of any cost to inspected companies complying with regulations. Rather, the decrease in injuries led to a 26 percent reduction in costs from medical expenses and lost wages translating to an average of $350,000 per company.

The findings strongly indicate that OSHA regulations actually save businesses money.”

That research should give enormous heart to OHS regulators around the world and reduce criticism from business groups. The findings have been defined as “definitive” but this is like saying that research into Scandinavian workplaces and society can be relevant to other countries. Research in OHS and workers compensation in the United States is relevant to the United States with mostly curiosity value to other nations. Continue reading “OHS inspections save businesses money”

Another salary survey shows increased demand for OHS professionals

Australian recruiting company, Hays, has released its annual salary surveyin which it says that there is increasing demand for OHS professionals in Australia however the salary levels seem comparatively low, particularly at the entry-level. The survey says that the introduction of harmonised OHS laws in most Australian States has:

“…led to increased accountability and thus demand for high risk safety experts.”

It could be said that many safety experts have been “high risk” but the quote above places safety in a risk context.  Safety professionals must be able to understand and deal with business risks in the broader context.  In some sectors risk management integrates OHS but in others, where risk management is almost exclusively concerned with insurances and safety is the purview of a Health and Safety Representative, OHS is shunned as a foreign concept or a poorly under threat. Continue reading “Another salary survey shows increased demand for OHS professionals”