Last week the Australian Financial Review (AFR) brought some focus on occupational health and safety (OHS) by reporting on the most recent annual report from GlencoreXstrata in its article “Mining’s not war, why 26 deaths?” (subscription required). The article is enlightening but as important is that a business newspaper has analysed an annual report in a workplace safety context. Curiously, although OHS is often mentioned as part of its sustainability and risk management program, safety is not seen as a financial key performance indicator, and it should be.
AFR’s Matthew Stevens wrote:
“Everybody in mining talks about ‘zero harm’ being the ultimate ambition of their health and safety programs. But talking safe and living safe are two very different things.”
GlencoreXstrata’s 2013 annual report is worth a look to both verify the AFR’s quotes but also to see the corporate context in which fatality statements are stated. The crux of the AFR article is this statement from the Chairman’s introduction:
“It is with deep sadness that I must report the loss of 26 lives at our combined operations during 2013. Any fatality is totally unacceptable and one of the Board’s main objectives is to bring about lasting improvements to our safety culture.” (page 76)
(A curious sidenote is that the interim Chairman is Dr Anthony Howard, formally of BP and brought to prominence by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.) Continue reading “GlencoreXstrata’s annual report shows more than 26 deaths”
All professions need spokespeople or champions who can provide informative and, hopefully, authoritative commentary on topical matters within and beyond the profession. Australia’s safety profession has never had such a spokesperson but recently the speakers’ bureau ICMI has packaged a selection of speakers who it thinks could be appropriate. The brief for Work Health Solutions focuses almost entirely on the issues of absenteeism, lost productivity, presenteeism and creating “a more enjoyable, friendly and less threatening environment” but will these speakers provide solutions to illnesses, injuries, amputations and diseases? Can these speakers provide the solutions implied in the program?
From the information on the program’s flyer, several of the speakers seem to be able to present stories about safety-gone-wrong. Theo Venter survived electrocution. Ian Johnson was seriously burned and speaks about the risks of confined spaces. Philip Smallman was a tree surgeon who became a paraplegic after a fall. Helen Fitzroy speaks of the impact of her husband’s workplace fatality. John Tickell has spoken at several OHS conferences and has at least contributed to a book about OHS but others are tenuous. But ICMI is also promoting speakers who are primarily event hosts or Masters of Ceremonies and at least one of them generated complaints during a WorkSafe Victoria event several years ago for inappropriate comments about women. Continue reading “OHS solutions promoted but not necessarily delivered”
It is rare for workplace safety to gain a half-page in the daily press in Australia but this occurred recently in The Australian. The newspaper’s industrial editor, Ewin Hannan, built an article, “Tunnel Vision on Safety“, around the following quote from a leaked memo from 2010 then head of human resources, industrial relations and safety for John Holland, Stephen Sasse, in relation to the management of the Airport Link project:
“‘‘In my seven years with John Holland, I have never seen any project or management team that was so cavalier about the company’s OHS (occupational health and safety) system, principles and values and I have grave doubts about the management’s team’s capability in safety.’”
This is a remarkable statement but Sasse has been outspoken on safety issues in the general construction sector before. In 2011 a change in the senior management of Leighton Holdings, the parent company of John Holland, created doubt about Sasse’s future and Sasse left the organisation in October 2011. The latter articles also indicate Sasse’s relationship with the union movement which may be part of the reason the unions are repeating their calls for an inquiry into John Holland and its licence with Comcare. SafetyAtWorkBlog has several articles about these industrial relations tensions from 2009. Continue reading “Safety in the C Suite doesn’t always run smoothly”
They both nodded in agreement when she said, “I’m half bored to death in this job, nearly had it”. Both women were freezing, sitting outside in the covered area. Their fingers blue.
The short morning break. You hurry, you panic, get a quick hot drink, a cigarette, quickly back into it. Hour after hour after hour “for the last 20 years” she said. From 5 am when she gets up to do things before rushing to work to start at 7 am. Rush back home at 3 pm to pick up ‘the youngan-whydidIdoit’ as she said of her late in life baby. She looked about 40.
Of course workplace fatalities and injuries are heart breaking tragedies. People work to earn a living, this is not a war zone. But the more common issues at work, those that grind people hour by hour for decades of their one single life are not to do with that.
They are to do with what in polite text will spawn dots. It’s to do with the daily tiredness, humiliation and wall-to-wall disrespect experienced by so many workers on a daily basis. It’s to do with that exhausting sense of, ‘I’ve just about had enough’. It’s to do with what I call F..kwit Fatigue. Continue reading “Half bored and tired to death”
Earlier this year, the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) launched its OHS Body of Knowledge (BoK) project, an excellent collection of workplace safety information and research but one that has had restrictions imposed on it that seem contrary to its purpose.
SafetyAtWorkBlog has communicated repeatedly to the SIA about the BoK project and the, seemingly, related operation of the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board (AOHSEAB) but, although the communications have been acknowledged, no responses have been received. Some of the questions go to the heart of the meaning of an OHS profession and body of knowledge but also to the relationships of various organisations under, or connected to, the SIA such as the Health and Safety Professionals Association (HaSPA) and AOHSEAB.
OHS Body of Knowledge
BoK contains over 30 articles about most of the major workplace safety issues of modern times. These have been produced by some of the most prominent OHS researchers in Australia. But it can only be read on a computer screen and the PDF files have a security level that forbids any cutting and pasting. Why would this important safety information be any different to guidance and data that OHS regulators provide for fair use? The SIA has never provided a reason for this peculiar approach to spreading OHS knowledge.
The SIA professes the organisation to be about the following:
“We are committed to creating a profession that can deliver the highest standards of OHS and we do this through the engagement of our individual members, corporate and strategic partners, governing bodies and key profession stakeholders.
Through the SIA, individuals have access to qualified timely advice into public policy and regulation, research and development to advance OHS knowledge and guidance. We have developed a body of knowledge to set health and safety standards, procedures and practices to be adopted on a national basis across the profession.”
SafetyAtWorkBlog posed the following questions to the appropriate contact person, Pam Pryor, Registrar, of the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board in early May 2012. The AOHSEAB issued its first ever newsletter on 5 July 2012. (Hyperlinks have been added) Continue reading “Unanswered questions on Safety Institute activities”