Momentum increases for tangible action on workplace bullying

According to the Canberra Times, a company board has been served with an improvement notice over inadequate attention to workplace bullying claims in a retirement home.  The ABC television program, 7.30, has followed up workplace bullying claims aired earlier this month with a further case on 25 September 2012 with savage criticism of WorkSafe Victoria’s actions in the case.

The Australian Government has completed the public hearings of its Parliamentary Inquiry into workplace bullying.  Bullying is everywhere but little seems to be happening to address the various elements and deficiencies of the regulatory system.

On 21 September 2012 the WorkSafe ACT Commissioner warned about inaction on workplace bullying:

“If bullying has not occurred, then a properly conducted investigation should find that… If, on the other hand, an independent investigation substantiates the allegations, then the employer will be in a position to act to protect their workers from any ongoing threat to their health and safety.” Continue reading “Momentum increases for tangible action on workplace bullying”

Strengthening safety decision-making

Any professional sees elements of their profession in other walks of life.  Police notice infringements when they are off duty.  Teachers often continue to instruct or educate when outside of school.  Journalist’s conversations with friends often contain pointed questions.

Safety professionals, commonly, extend safety principles to their own behaviours and lives.  This can sometimes lead to a heightened intolerance of unsafe behaviour in others but also desires that life operated on safety principles.  Today I wondered about the application of the concept of “Reasonably Practicable” in prioritising corporate and personal safety objectives.

I simplified (bastardised, some may say) the Safe Work Australia guideline on reasonably practicable into questions that we should ask in our non-OHS lives but, most importantly, the priority of the reasonable practicable process is retained.  The questions, in order of priority are:

  • How important is it?
  • How harmful could it be?
  • What do we know about it?
  • How can we control it?
  • How much will it cost?

Self-help aficionados may see these as life lessons or criteria that can be applied to many decisions.  I agree to some extent but the priority of the questions is of most importance in the decision-making process because it places the issue of cost last. Continue reading “Strengthening safety decision-making”

Law reform does not prevent harm, only compensates for it

Josh Bornstein is a media-savvy lawyer with Maurice Blackburn who has gained some prominence on the matter of workplace bullying.  A week ago Bornstein spoke at a Legalwise seminar in Melbourne Australia and he has yet to stop running on his topic of discussion – “Disproving the seven myths about workplace bullying”.  Today he released a video of his presentation on the Maurice Blackburn YouTube channel.  The speech from the seminar is HERE.

Lawyers advise that words and statements are very important.  Documents and presentations are deconstructed for nuance and alternate interpretations.  Context is also vitally important to determine why something was said when it was said and why it was said.  These tools are equally useful for Bornstein’s presentation.

Continue reading “Law reform does not prevent harm, only compensates for it”

Managing on luck is not managing safety

In December 2011, SafetyAtWorkBlog reported on a serious misreading of workplace safety by the President of the Australian Hotels Association in South Australia (AHA/SA), Peter Hurley.  The debate on new work health and safety laws in South Australia continues and on 7 September on radio station FIVEAA, according to an interview transcript (not available on-line), Peter Hurley continued to display his misunderstanding of OHS laws and principles even though SafeWorkSA responded at the time.   The broader significance of his comments is that they could provide an example of the way that OHS myths are created through anecdote and misunderstanding.

Hurley reportedly said:

“..last year one of our hotels was subjected to some very aggressive inspectorate activity and among a myriad of other nit-picking things that we were instructed that we had to comply with was an instruction that we had to deck out our bottle shop staff in high vis apparel so if someone wandered in and wanted to have a discussion about the nuances of one vintage of Grange against another, they were going to have stand there and talk to a bloke who looked like he was working on a building site … Continue reading “Managing on luck is not managing safety”

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”

CCH and Freehills produce a curate’s egg of an OHS book

CCH Australia has a long history as a prominent publisher on occupational health and safety issues but its latest book is a “curate’s egg”.

Australian law firm, Freehills, has always been very involved with CCH’s “Master occupational, or work, health and safety  guides but the 2012 edition of the Australian Master Work Health and Safety Guide is a more obvious marketing tool for Freehills than previous editions.  The books have long had a back page advertisement.  This year’s back page is devoted entirely to Freehills. The early pages of this edition include ten of photos of Freehills authors contributors with another eight of other non-Freehills authors before any useful text appears.  It is difficult to see the need for such prominence when names alone have been sufficient in books for decades.

The book is also much more graphical and pictorial than previous editions but CCH’s decision to keep the book’s contents in black and white is less than impressive.  Some of the monochrome photos in the Manual Tasks chapter are indistinct. Previous OHS books like CCH’s 2003 Australian Master OHS and Environment Guide had no graphics so colour was not missed.  The lack of colour was a poor decision for this book.

The chapters on the model Work Health and Safety laws are less interesting than those sections dealing specifically with hazards.  This book is a good introduction to many of the OHS issues that safety professionals will deal with or need to be aware.  One recently graduated work colleague found the chapter on Plant Safety particularly good but basic.  The information on the WHS laws seems familiar, and similar information is likely to be available from a much cheaper source or from reputable online sources.

Continue reading “CCH and Freehills produce a curate’s egg of an OHS book”

Is safe work a basic, or fundamental, human right?

Early this century, according to a draft conference paper* in the SafetyAtWorkBlog archives, the late Eric Wigglesworth OAM posed the following question:

“In addition to our basic human rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion, should there also be freedom from injury as a basic human right?”

The expectation of a safe and healthy work environment and a workplace without risk is often expressed as a human right, but is OHS a “human right” and what does it mean?

According to one website

“on June 29, 2008, the XVIII World Congress on Safety and Health at Work signed the Seoul Declaration on Safety and Health at Work.”

According to the International Labour Organisation

“…the Declaration also emphasizes that the right to a safe and healthy working environment should be recognized as a fundamental human right.” [emphasis added]

The Seoul Declaration mentions human rights only in passing but the reference exists. It is one thing to make a statement and to do so on a global platform but to make this applicable at specific industrial or national levels seems different. Continue reading “Is safe work a basic, or fundamental, human right?”