What do we want from a workers’ memorial?

When anyone dies, it is important to remember them and their relatives as well as those we did not know personally but who also grieve.  Public recognition of deceased workers is a recent phenomenon, even though we have commemorated and noted industrial disasters for over a century.  Memorials have always provided a symbolic focus for our attention and grief with the hope that these memorials motivate people to reduce the chances of a workplace death occurring to others.

But worker memorials need to be carefully considered and designed to be inclusive as Death visits all workplaces regardless of the religion of the workers, their ethnicity, the location of the fatality or the workplace conditions.  On the eve of International Workers’ Memorial Day for 2017, it may be time to rethink the memorial to deceased workers in Melbourne, Victoria.

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More books on the Christmas list

There were three books that I left off my Christmas/Summer reading list.  Each of them important for my occupational health and safety (OHS) professional development and personal curiosity.

cover-of-rethink001The first is Rethink – The Surprising History of New Ideas by Steven Poole. This books looks at what we think are new ideas and sees the precursors or the ideas’ previous appearances.  I was attracted to this perspective because I am seeing a lot of new ideas in OHS that are familiar and similar to what has come before.   Continue reading “More books on the Christmas list”

Do workers have a human right to workplace health and safety?

It is common for workers, particularly trade union members, to insist that workers have a right to a safe and healthy workplace and work.  Often this is said to be a Human Right.  But does occupational health and safety (OHS) involve Human Rights or is the claim simply trade union hyperbole? Continue reading “Do workers have a human right to workplace health and safety?”

SWMS – the infectious safety weed

Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) professional, Paul Breslin, is continuing his research into the use and application of the Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) in the construction industry.  His latest paper, recently published in the Journal of Health, Safety and Environment (subscription only) asks an important question:

“If administrative controls are one of the lowest levels of control measures under the hierarchy of control, why has the Safe Work Method Statement become a central element in ensuring safety in the Australian construction industry?”

Breslin’s article title summarises the frustration of many OHS professionals where safety relies on lower order controls of the

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Truly acknowledging failure provides a strong base for improvement

When one fails in safety management, people can get hurt or die, yet safety professionals and business executives rarely acknowledge this failure, even though companies may plead guilty in court. Instead “mistakes” are made, “deficiencies” are identified and investigations uncover “areas for improvement” but these are rarely described as “failures”.

October 13 was the International Day For Failure (IDFF), a day that is intended to provide a structure for the discussion of failure and how we respond to, and cope with, failure.  The quote that most summarises the day is

“Failure is not the enemy, the fear of failure is”.

Part of the impediment for growth in safety management is that people are encouraged to deny liability for their actions.  Executives receive legal advice to say as little as possible and to keep as much as possible under legal-client privilege.  This is anathema to the principles of safety management that require failures to be acknowledged and for new preventive strategies to be developed. Yes, shit happens but safety management is particularly required to not let the shit happen twice. Continue reading “Truly acknowledging failure provides a strong base for improvement”

Reliance on PPE impedes safety progress

There is an increasing call for the mandatory wearing of high-visibility clothing for motorcycle riders around the world.  The reason is to make motorcyclist more visible to car drivers and other road users.  This sounds logical and sensible and is, in some way, based on the prominence of high-visibility clothing in  the industrial sectors of manufacturing, construction and others.  But is this a matter of policy based on evidence or a broad application of logic or a “common sense”?

As the requirement for high visibility clothing has been in workplaces longer than on motorcyclists it is worth looking for evidence of the effectiveness of high visibility clothing in workplaces.  A brief survey of some of the research literature has been unsuccessful in locating much research into this issue. (We always welcome input from readers on this). Wikipedia traces high-visibility clothing back to Scottish railways in the early 1960s, where

“Train drivers operating in these areas were asked their opinion as to the effectiveness of the jackets.”

It would seem the choice of high visibility clothing has stemmed from assessing a workplace, determining the dominant colour of that workplace or environment and then examining the colour wheel (above) to choose a colour of the greatest contrast, thereby providing a high visibility.   Continue reading “Reliance on PPE impedes safety progress”

FindTheBest seriously misjudges on its data services for workplace deaths and injuries

Many organisations are beginning to assess their performance in occupational health and safety (OHS), mostly through spreadsheet graphics and lead and lag indicators.  These “databases” provide comparisons of activity with the hope of showing positive progress on safety.  FindTheBest.com has been building comparison websites for some time and has applied their mystical Web2.0 algorithms to workplace safety data from the United States in its FindTheData website.  It has several sites that may be of interest to OHS professionals – Work Injuries and Death and Dangerous Jobs.

Dangerous Jobs allows you to select the occupational categories you are interested in and then compare their statistical data.  For instance, comparing Farmers and Ranchers to Structural Steel Workers shows an annual fatality rate of 39.7 to 30.3 based on hours, respectively.  These comparisons are based on data from the United States Department of Labor statistics.  But the question on the comparison is so what?  What benefit can be gained by comparing these two sets of data?  None, as far as I can see.

The glossary for Dangerous Jobs lists the top couple of popular comparisons as

  • Top 7 Most Dangerous Jobs in US
  • Police and sheriff’s patrol officers vs. Electricians

The first has curiosity value but the second is reminiscent of the adolescent (or drunk) speculation on who would win in a fight between Darth Vader and Gigantor?  Pointless speculation that sounds like it could result in some interesting information.  Just maybe.  Perhaps. Continue reading “FindTheBest seriously misjudges on its data services for workplace deaths and injuries”