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Award winning news, commentary and opinion on workplace health and safety

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    “Certain occupational exposures appear to increase the risk of developing postmenopausal breast cancer”, is a conclusion reached by Canadian researchers and released in April 2010 edition of the Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine. The researchers acknowledged that “some findings might be due to chance or to undetected bias some findings might be due to chance or to undetected bias”, but there is enough evidence to generate concern in occupational sectors and, often, the media shows increased interest in breast cancer research. Several Australian scientists have advised caution on interpreting the research findings.   Professor Bernard Stewart, Scientific Advisor to Cancer Council Australia, More…

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    A scientific symposium held in Canada in April 2010 has raised some serious concerns about the health impacts of shift work.  Some of the evidence has existed for a while but collecting it all together makes one wonder how companies can justify shift work in the face of such high risks to workers’ health. From the evidence presented at the symposium, workers will be tired at work when working shift work and are more likely to be injured than those on day shift.  Some workers have an increased risk of breast cancer.  Foetal growth in some pregnant women may be impeded.  Circadian disruption may encourage the growth of More…

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    The May 2010 edition of the  Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine includes an important report about the increase of heart disease risk in young women.  There is often a lot of reports into the cardiovascular health of men so this report is very useful. The basic findings of the report are: “Nurses who indicated that their work pressures were a little too high were 25% more likely to have ischaemic heart disease as those who said their work pressures were manageable and appropriate. But those who felt work pressures were much too high were almost 50% More…

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    In July 2010, Melbourne Australia is hosting the 2010 conference of the International Congress of Applied Psychology.  What was an OHS consultant at this conference?  The question should be why wasn’t OHS consultants at this conference? This conference is not about workplace safety, per se.  It is about how people think and communicate.  It provides research (some would say evidence), often about how people relate to each other at work.  The exciting content of this ICAP Conference makes the Safety In Action Conference look like a history lesson. The conference has made the full program and the speaker abstracts More…

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    This week two new OHS books came across my desk unbidden.  Both are very good but have very different contexts and both were published by Baywood Publishing Company Inc. “Who Is Nursing Them? It is Us.” “Neoliberalism, HIV/AIDS, and the Occupational Health and Safety of South African Public Sector Nurses” by Jennifer R Zelnick Northern Exposure – A Canadian Perspective on Occupational Health and Environment by David Bennett South Africa is an exotic foreign land to me.  I am aware of the basic political issues of the country for the last 30 years but, in terms of More…

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    One of the first OHS trade exhibitions for 2011 in Australia starts today.  Exhibitions like Safety In Action are the best opportunities for many health and safety professionals, representatives and students to update their product knowledge.  It is usually here where one finds out about non-steel capped safety footwear, new fall harnesses or the latest interlock devices.  But do these innovative products needs to be promoted by scantily clad women as in the picture on the right? This has been a constant annoyance at trade exhibitions for some time and, in fact, some exhibitions in More…

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    In early April 2011 SafetyAtWorkBlog questioned the appropriateness of an advertising image of a semi-clad woman in an emergency shower.  The emergency shower company, Spill Station Australia, has changed the major image of its shower ads in the most recent brochure being distributed with some Australian OHS magazines. Kevin Jones Tagged: OHS, safety

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    Testosterone does not have an immediate association with occupational health and safety, however it could have an impact on collaboration according to a recent article abstract in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. Researchers at University College London have found that “Testosterone causally disrupts collaboration during joint decision-making – and does so by increasing individuals’ egocentricity, so that they overweigh their own subjective decisions.” Those safety professionals who have worked in male-dominated industry sectors may find this to be confirmation of their experience of workplace negotiations but the potential social and organisational  impacts of the research More…

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    On 12 July 2012, SafetyAtWorkBlog described Moira Rayner as the “stand out speaker at the public hearing into workplace bullying conducted in Melbourne Australia.  She was always on topic and spoke of her own experience of being accused of bullying.  The Hansard record of that hearing is now available online and deserves some analysis to illustrate Rayner’s points but to also to expand our understanding of workplace bullying and the Committee’s operation. Moira Rayner As a representative of the Law Institute of Victoria, Moira Rayner, questioned the existing definition of workplace bullying favoured by Australian OHS regulators and said that the definition requires case studies and examples More…

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    The Building Safety conference this weekend had one or two underwhelming speakers but these were overshadowed by some brilliant presentations, and by brilliant, I mean challenging. I had no indication of what was to come from the presentation by Dr Dean Laplonge on gender. His presentation has caused me to begin to reassess my own (male) perceptions and those of the safety profession. The title of this article is a Monty Python reference where a professor from England joins the Philosophy Faculty of the University of Woolloomooloo. He is inducted into the faculty by being More…

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    Several SafetyAtWorkBlog articles recently have had record readership statistics. One of particular note concerned gender issues in the workplace.  On 9 June 2013, Marie-Claire Ross wrote about her experiences with gender bias in the workplace and, in particular, its existence in the safety profession. This reminded me of two documents I recently read about gender and safety. The April 2013 edition of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management (AJOEM)devoted an entire edition of the magazine to gender issues.This is a useful counterpoint to the SafetyAtWorkBlog article as emergency management remains a male-dominated culture. This edition of AJOEM includes the following More…

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    Recently a colleague of mine expressed regret that occupational health and safety in Australia is no longer occupational. Occupational health and safety (OHS) established its parameters in its title but now most of Australia is bound to Work Health and Safety laws. Work is more than a workplace and so the discipline, the OHS profession, became more complex. Some would say that it has always been complex and that many OHS professionals failed to see the bigger picture, the broad social context of workplace health and safety. I was reminded of my colleague’s regrets when More…

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    SafetyAtWorkBlog regularly receives excellent review books from the New York publishing company, BaywoodPublishing.  The latest is entitled Safety or Profit? – International Studies in Governance, Change and the Work Environment.   I have yet to get beyond the introduction to the chapters by Australian academics on precarious workers (Quinlan) and the decriminalisation of OHS (Johnstone) but the introduction is fascinating. The most fascinating is its discussion of Lord Robens’ Report of the Inquiry into Health and Safety at Work from 1973. The editors, Theo Nichols and David Walters, question the “major advance” many claimed for More…

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    In December 2013 I wrote: “The Age is correct in saying that claims of workplace bullying are “set to soar”. This has been predicted for some time, even privately by members of the Fair Work Commission, but the number of claims does not always indicate the level of a problem.” (link added) Recently the Fair Work Commission (FWC) released its first quarterly report into anti-bullying  applications and the statistics indicate that there is no soaring of claims.  Sadly the report does not provide analysis only facts. According to the FWC media release, in the first More…

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    When people mention safety, they are often really talking about risk.  In a similar way, people talk about the absurdity of ‘elf ‘n’ safety when they actually mean public liability or food safety or HACCP.  And when some professionals talk about risk management they mean minimising the cost to the employer or controlling reputational damage. Recently two books were released that illustrate the limitations of the current Western/patriarchal society’s approach to workplace safety. Dr Dean Laplonge has written about gender and its role in making decisions and Dr Rob Long has written his third book on More…

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    A spat has recently emerged on one of the safety discussion forums in Linkedin.  The catalyst was a statement that “60% of every Australian worker turns up for work unfit due to De-hydration“ The source of this data, not disclosed at the time of the original post, was a company that sells “…a great tasting, scientifically proven mix of cutting-edge branch chain amino acids and low Gi carbohydrates for sustained energy release, combined with a formulated blend of electrolytes for optimum hydration in harsh Australian conditions”. The discussion quickly refocused from the original safety concern More…

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    Many OHS professionals state that leadership is a crucial element to establishing a safety culture and then support this with examples of positive leadership.  But some people fail at leadership and failure is often more instructional than success.  Recently the CEO of Orica, Ian Smith, had to resign after his abusive manner resulted in the resignations of  two employees.  This is bad enough but when the Board hired Smith around three years earlier, the Board saw his manner as attractive.  If leadership is crucial to a safety culture, what does this say about Orica’s decisions? More…

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    Suicide is a reality in many workplaces.  Work may exacerbate the stresses and psychological conditions leading to people thinking of suicide and it can create those stresses.  Most workers at risk of suicide show signs of distress, just as all workplaces show signs like near misses, but these signs are often not recognised. Mates in Construction is one program that teaches the recognition of these signs after an increasing suicide rate but Australian farmers are also killing themselves.  This reality has generated The Ripple Effect program to, initially, raise awareness of the risks and to More…

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    The 19thTriennial Congress of the International Ergonomics Association (IEA 2015) is currently running in Melbourne Australia with 900 delegates, of which 600 are from outside Australia.  It offers a fascinating (online) library of ergonomic and occupational health and safety (OHS) research. Below is a sample of the research on offer picked, largely, at random. It seems unnecessary to state that ergonomics is an essential part of the knowledge base of safety and production but ergonomics still seems to be a “dark art” to many.  This is acknowledged by many in the sector and is summarised More…

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  • 09/30/15--20:48: Beware the power of words
  • Occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals are being encouraged to think differently about safety and to focus on the positives instead of the failures, the leads instead of the lags. This needs to be supported by how we describe workplace incidents and in this context the profession can learn from one aspect of the debate on family violence in which Australia is currently engaged. One example is available in this article from Women’s Agenda.  In it Editor Jane Gilmore writes about how the death of a women, murdered by a man, was described poorly by More…

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