OHS needs more comedies like Safety First

a54c5e_887371bdbda842de8bfb875829197d4f Safety First, is a dig at the absurdity of some of the training and concepts behind occupational health and safety (OHS) and is showing as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. The comedy does not ridicule OHS as a concept but focuses on the idiotic, semi-informed trainers who talk about safety whilst also, often, talking shit.  The humour is effective and occasionally generates discomfort for its proximity to reality. Continue reading “OHS needs more comedies like Safety First”

Incident investigation findings should be shared

Accident reportMany people, and OHS professionals, complain about the lack of research in Australia into occupational health and safety issues.  Research is occurring but often this is inaccessible to companies, professionals and decision-makers due to unjustifiable costs for the articles and journals.  Yet there is OHS research, of a type, that can be done by any company should they choose to do so – incident investigation.

Individual investigation reports may only address one set of circumstances, those that led to an incident or, rarely but importantly, a near miss or a systems breach, but together these reports may identify a systemic problem or illustrate broader safer deficiencies in an industry sector.

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The Australian Government targets former PM, Kevin Rudd, over insulation deaths

The investigation into workplace deaths associated with Australia’s Home Insulation Program (HIP) was refreshed yesterday with the publication of some of the terms of reference for a new Government inquiry into the program.  The HIP deaths is an enormously politically charged issue in Australia and the politics, and associated media attention, could derail an inquiry that has the potential to provide important occupational health and safety, risk management and governance issues.

Greg Hunt, Environment Minister is quoted as saying that

“The Government is committed to a full inquiry into Kevin Rudd’s home insulation scheme that was linked to the tragic loss of four young lives,….”

According to the Courier-Mail newspaper on 27 October 2013 there will be ten elements in the terms of reference but only four are mentioned:

  • The process and basis of government decisions while establishing the program, including risk assessment and risk management;
  • Whether the death of the four men could have been avoided;
  • What if any advice or undertakings given by the government to the industry were inaccurate or deficient, and;
  • What steps the government should have taken to avoid the tragedies.

These four seem reasonable aims but this information has been leaked, the full terms of reference have not been released and a person to head the inquiry is yet to be announced.

iStock_000010997810 safety tape Medium crop Continue reading “The Australian Government targets former PM, Kevin Rudd, over insulation deaths”

IR to HR to OHS to WHS to Mental Health in one lunchbreak

Every so often, legal seminars on industrial relations and occupational health and safety identify possible solutions instead of spruiking a lawyer’s latest publication or showing off legal expertise and OHS ignorance.  In a lunchtime seminar in July 2013, Melbourne law firm Maddocks provided 30 minutes of clarity on flexible working arrangements and another 30 on workplace bullying providing a useful and refreshing bridge between human resources, industrial relations and OHS.

Flexible Work Arrangements

The Fair Work Act seems to be constantly changing and one of the most recent changes is a revision of flexible working arrangements.  These arrangements have always been on the fringe of OHS but integral to HR where returning to work from extended leave needs phasing in, or where one’s familial situation has changed so that 9 to 5 is no longer manageable.  OHS is not overt in these negotiations Continue reading “IR to HR to OHS to WHS to Mental Health in one lunchbreak”

Prevention of harm is lost in the debate over workplace bullying

This week in Australia the conservative Liberal Party released its much-anticipated industrial relations policy.  Most commentary is that the policy is thin but in terms of occupational health and safety, the Liberal Party is supportive of the changes made concerning workplace bullying.  Sadly, the commentary is often lazy.

VWA+0518+28x5+Bullying+A3+PosterMedia Misunderstanding

One example of a careless  headline is in the Herald Sun newspaper for 11 May 2013, “$20 million Budget boost to stop workplace bullying“.  The Australian Government’s changes to the Fair Work Act do not prevent bullying, it only provides further options for remedy.  OHS is principally about preventing harm and the Fair Work Act changes do not help in this aim. Continue reading “Prevention of harm is lost in the debate over workplace bullying”

An OHS look at the Australian Labor Party’s National Platform

Cover of National Platform 2011 ALPThe leadership squabbles in the Australian Labor Party (ALP) have diminished  for the moment, and the next Federal election is set for September 2013.  Most everyone is tipping the ALP to lose the election.  The verb “lose” is specifically chosen, for the opposition Liberal/National coalition will probably win “by default”.  Whatever the electoral outcomes, the major political parties in Australia have current positions and policies on workplace safety.  Six months out from an election, it may be worth looking at those policies, as they currently stand. The first is that of the ALP.

The ALP has an extensive National Platform that was presented at its National Conference in 2012.  Below are some of the statements from that document as they pertain to occupational health and safety (OHS).  Some commentary is offered on these statements.

“The Labor Government places the highest priority on worker safety, particularly miner worker safety.” (page 42) Continue reading “An OHS look at the Australian Labor Party’s National Platform”

SafeWorkSA executive receives Queen’s Birthday honour

Every year I look through the Queen’s Birthday Honours list in Australia, looking for somebody who has been awarded an honour for services to occupational health and safety.  Almost every year, there is nothing but in 2012 one person was awarded a Public Service Medal “for outstanding public service in the area of occupational health and safely.”

This year, Michele Patterson, Executive Director of SafeWork SA was awarded the Public Service Medal.  There is an outline of the justification for the award online  (at page 389).

Congratulations.

Kevin Jones