GlencoreXstrata’s annual report shows more than 26 deaths

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”

New political challenges for OHS in Australia

This weekend the Australian people voted for the conservative Liberal Party to be the next Federal government.   Workplace safety has been largely absent from the pre-election campaign but when it has been mentioned it has almost always been couched in terms of productivity.  In the next few years, workplace safety issues must be couched in terms of productivity to have any hope of gaining the ear of the new government and, particularly, the ear of Senator Eric Abetz, the most likely candidate for the ministry of workplace relations.

Workplace Bullying

Recent changes to workplace bullying laws which provide a prominent role of the Fair Work Commission are unlikely to be rolled back but Abetz has promised Continue reading “New political challenges for OHS in Australia”

Quad bike fatalities cost an average of at least $2.3 million

Australian research has provided an important additional element to discussions on the safety of using quad bikes as work vehicles on Australian farms.  According to a media release to be published on 3 April 2013 from the Australian Centre for Agricultural Health and Safety (ACAHS):

Two new papers released today in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health ….indicate that the costs for fatal [quad bike] incidents between 2001-2010 were $288 million.” [links added, articles only available for purchase or by subscription]
caution ATV signDr Tony Lower, ACAHS Director, says that
 ““This conservative estimate draws on deaths data from the National Coroners Information System and includes projected losses in future earnings, impacts on household contributions, insurance payments, investigation and hospital costs”…. The average cost was $A2.3 million, with the highest average being in those aged 25-34 years at $A4.2 million””.
This estimation is shocking but refreshing.  Shocking in that the cost is so high but refreshing because the data is not based, as so much OHS data is, only on workers compensation claims data Continue reading “Quad bike fatalities cost an average of at least $2.3 million”

Australian Government shifts workplace bullying into the industrial relations system

Politicians are sufficiently media-savvy to release policies and information to gain the maximum exposure in the media cycle.  For some reason, Australia’s Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, missed the opportunity to have his changes on workplace bullying in the newspapers for 12 February 2013.  The news cycle is also being dominated by the resignation of Pope Benedict.  However Shorten’s response to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying deserves detailed analysis.

??????????????????????????????????Shorten is bringing the investigation of workplace bullying cases under the Fair Work Commission.  There are likely to be complex consequences of this decision, a decision that is clearly the Minister’s as the Parliamentary Inquiry made no clear recommendation on the location of the “new national service”.

“The Committee did not receive evidence on where such a service [“a single, national service to provide advice to employers and workers alike on how to prevent, and respond to workplace bullying” 5.51, page 136] should be located.  It might be best situated within an existing government agency or department such as Safe Work Australia, the Fair Work Ombudsman or the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations.  It may also be considered appropriate for the service to be an independent body that is funded by the Commonwealth. Consequently, the Committee does not have a clear recommendation as to where the new national service may sit.” (Section 5.58, page 138)

Clearly Shorten’s announcement could easily have been “Minister rejects independent body on workplace bullying”.  The Minister should be asked about his reasons for not establishing an independent body into this important issue. Continue reading “Australian Government shifts workplace bullying into the industrial relations system”

Nothing is more important than (safe) jobs

Richard Marles is a Federal Member of Australia’s Parliament and a former executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.  He has produced an opinion piece that is doing the rounds of the Victorian media  and is headed “Nothing is more important than jobs“.  The 80 jobs to be created in the Corio electoral are important but nowhere in the article does Marles talk about creating safe jobs.  This is a weakness in his argument and reflects the subconsciousness, and short memory, of many Australian governments. Continue reading “Nothing is more important than (safe) jobs”

Shorten’s Centre for Workplace Leadership is likely to ignore OHS

For some months Australia’s Workplace Relations Minister  Bill Shorten, has been talking about establishing a Centre for Workplace Leadership. This presents an opportunity for practical progress on OHS but it relies on someone joining the dots of occupational safety, workplace health and productivity – a highly unlikely occurrence.

In December 2012, Shorten started looking for a provider of the Centre, a facility that he described as

“…a flagship initiative of the Gillard Government and will play an important role in supporting our aim to increase workplace level productivity and the quality of jobs by improving leadership capability in Australian workplaces…

He also said that

“This will not be another training company. The Centre will drive a broader Continue reading “Shorten’s Centre for Workplace Leadership is likely to ignore OHS”

Australia’s harmonisation program may be on life support but it’s getting stronger

In April 2012, this blog said that the harmonisation of occupational health and safety laws (OHS) in Australia was coughing up blood. On 1 January 2013, two more Australian States introduced new OHS laws based on the model Work Health and Safety Act and Regulations of the harmonisation process. (only two left, Victoria and Western Australia) As Acting Workplace Relations Minister, Kate Ellis, said in a media release yesterday:

“As of today 64 in every 100 working Australians will be covered by modern, best practice and consistent laws…”

On the national front, harmonisation has failed but from the perspective of those individual States that have introduced the WHS laws, the process has increased the influence and attention of workplace safety in their jurisdictions.

Laws do not improve worker safety by themselves. They require support and commitment from both business owners and workers. Those fierce and, often, confused critics of the WHS laws need to accept that their campaigns have failed. The maturity of those critics will now be judged by the critics’ preparedness to accept the situation and work within the new laws to improve the safety of their members and clients.

Australian businesses will not benefit from constant white-anting of the new laws, undermining safety laws for political reasons benefits no one.  Continue reading “Australia’s harmonisation program may be on life support but it’s getting stronger”