Attitudinal survey has promise but the restriction of data stifles discussion

The “Australia’s Behaviour Concerns” (ABC) survey has received a good deal of press in Australia this week as it provides so many options for each State’s media to report on concerns identified by the survey’s respondents.  Of the thirty-eight concerns identified, three involve occupational health and safety (OHS) directly:

  • Work Harassment
  • Discrimination and Bullying
  • Unsafe Work Practices.

One of the significant issues with such surveys and findings is that these measure perceptions of safety and not the reality.  Community concerns may be high but may mostly reflect topical events, campaigns and advertising so in terms of verifying marketing and OHS awareness campaigns, the survey may be most useful.   Continue reading “Attitudinal survey has promise but the restriction of data stifles discussion”

Fair Work Commission girds its loins for workplace bullying complaints

Official statistics on workplace bullying in Australia are notoriously unreliable.  The Productivity Commission estimated the cost of workplace bullying with a huge margin of variation, between A$6 billion and A$36 billion annually.  WorkSafe Victoria has indicated in the past that the number of interventions on workplace bullying is way below the number of workplace bullying complaints.  On 29 October 2103, in a long discussion on workplace bullying the Australian Capital Territory’s Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher stated:

“According to reports from the Commissioner for Public Administration, reports of bullying and harassment have totalled 68 cases in 2010-11, 71 in 2011-12, and 118 cases in the financial year that has just passed, 2012-13. Proven cases of bullying have numbered four, eight 11 and 19 respectively. This amounts to complaints being made by 0.5 per cent of staff, and substantiated in relation to 0.08 per cent of staff.” (Hansard, page P3930, emphasis added)

These latest statistics, in conjunction with those previously reported, indicate that the perception of workplace bullying is much higher than the reality in Australia.   Continue reading “Fair Work Commission girds its loins for workplace bullying complaints”

Truth, justice and the safe way

Many years ago the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) won a WorkSafe Victoria award for a colouring in book.  From memory the book depicted construction work so that children could understand what their parents do while the kids are at school.  Since that time many companies have produced safety calendars from children’s drawings and train companies have created safety jingles and animated videos about decapitation.  On 28 October WorkSafeACT launched a comic book about Hazardman.

Dr Rob Long rips the campaign to shreds in a blog article,concluding with

“It is amazing that the Regulator can impose this indoctrination campaign on the school system and now we learn that Safe Work Australia is going to roll it out throughout Australia. Fantastic, what a wonderful way to prepare our children and inoculate them against the realities of risk.” Continue reading “Truth, justice and the safe way”

Measuring a safety culture

Defining safety culture is still a tricky proposition.  Definitions can vary from what Global Safety Index quotes:

‘the product of individual and group values, attitudes and beliefs, competencies and patterns of behaviour that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organisation’s health and safety management’.

to the, arguably more functional, definition of

‘the way you work when nobody’s looking”.

Safety culture comprises a mix of personal values, corporate values, laws, norms, expectations, hopes, respect, dignity, care, amongst others. By assessing and linking these elements it should be possible to map or pictorialise a company’s safety culture.

Several years ago at a Comcare conference in Canberra, one speaker outlined leadership and safety culture of some sections of the public service in web, spider or radar graphs (example above).  The image stuck with me, particularly after additional sets of data allowed for animation to show the evolution of culture and leadership in relation to specific interventions.  The importance of being able to provide a visual image of safety culture should not be understated. Continue reading “Measuring a safety culture”

Hundreds plead with government to save lives while those to blame beg for scrutiny

The article below has been written by Marian Macdonald and is about an event that I recently attended in Sydney about fall protection.

When a plumber perched on the rooftop of a skyscraper clips a safety harness onto the point that anchors him to the building, there’s a one-in-three chance the anchor itself is unsafe. Remarkably, the installers being held to blame are pleading for greater scrutiny of their work from the regulator.

SummitAudienceThe Working At Heights Association (WAHA), which represents fall prevention equipment installers, today sent a call to action submission (not available online)  to the Heads Of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA). It follows an industry crisis summit held last month where, with a sea of upstretched hands, hundreds packed into a stifling conference room demanded urgent action from governments. Continue reading “Hundreds plead with government to save lives while those to blame beg for scrutiny”

Focus on Safety and compliance will come

Everyone wants clarity.  We want the comfort of knowing we are doing the right thing or that we are meeting the targets we and others set.  Workplace safety is no different but it has been complicated to an extent that clarity is unachievable and so uncertainty has come to dominate.

Occupational health and safety (OHS) consultants are often asked by business, small business in particular, “just tell us how to comply”.  Once upon a time this could be done but now the best a consultant can do is say something like “I reckon you’ll be okay, ……. if you follow through with the commitments needed, and keep your state of knowledge up to date, and take out as many liability insurances as you can, and become a member of an industry association ….and……..and…..”

The cult of “reasonably practicable” has been a major cause of this uncertainty but even prior to this was the move in Australia in the 1990s from a prescriptive regulatory structure to performance-based.

OHS compliance is now at the stage of the “best guess” or an “educated guess”, if one is lucky.  Continue reading “Focus on Safety and compliance will come”

SafetyAtWorkBlog gains a 2012 top blog honour

SafetyAtWorkBlog is proud to accept the honour of being one of the 2012 honorees of LexisNexis’ Top 25 Blogs for Workers’ Compensation and Workplace Issues. According to Lexis Nexis’ website:

“For a number of years now, Australian editor Kevin Jones has been writing and compiling an excellent mix of “news, commentary and opinion” on workplace safety and health in “the Land Down Under.” Aided by several other contributors, Jones offers timely and interesting entries that should interest workers’ compensation professionals in North America, as well. The blog takes a broad and thoughtful swath.”

We strongly recommend that SafetyAtWorkBlog readers look at the other honorees for 2012.

Thank you to all our readers and contributors. We hope to continue for some time.

Kevin Jones

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