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

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    I have a lot of books about workplace safety.  Many of them are referenced frequently, several have changed my thoughts.  However if I was asked which book has had the most impact on my values and understanding of occupational health and safety (OHS), my response would be of a book I read before I even knew OHS existed.  That book is The Story of Ferdinand, and this is why. Ferdinand is a bull who wants to sit under a cork tree and smell the flowers.  The world intervenes on this idyll and Ferdinand, with the More…

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    The European Union conducts research into occupational health and safety that, although there may be cultural and legislative differences, deserves attention from outside that geographical region.  Recently EuroFound released its annual review for 2014.  There are a couple of research projects that deserve consideration, particularly return-on-investment in construction safety, violence at work, psychosocial issues and precarious work risks. A French study into risk prevention in the construction sector set out to assess the link between prevention and performance and found that “….pro-active measures, far from hampering competitiveness, can in fact lead to an increase in economic performance.” (page More…

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    A United States report draws a parallel between increasingly difficult economic situations and an increase in workplace bullying.   This video report is lightweight but is a recent airing of the issue with a different approach. The angle taken in the story is that of a “pink elephant” that women are just as likely to bully their workmates as men are.  Some of the speakers in the video try to relate female bullying to issues of female empowerment but bullying is more often a reflection of personal nastiness than a social movement. Bullying received increased focus More…

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  • 07/30/09--23:36: New Work/Life Research
  • There seems to be new institutes and academic schools popping up regularly over research into the issue of work/life balance.  Recently one of the oldest and most prominent of the institutes, the Centre for Work + Life at the University of South Australia, released new research data. The latest Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) was released in late July 2009.  The executive summary identifies several important issues relevant to OHS: “Three years of data about work-life interference in Australia tell us that many employees experience frequent interference from work in their personal, home and community More…

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    Several years ago I attended a safety seminar hosted by Seacare.  Maritime safety is not part of my “brief” but safety is, and I was seeking alternate perspectives on my specialist area.  Seacare conducted a session where the treatment and management of an injured worker was work-shopped from incident to return-to-work. It was the first time I had seen a panel of experts deal with the life of a worker across the injury management continuum.  The session showed the necessity to communicate across several disciplines and to always keep the focus on the injured worker.  I More…

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    It is very easy to forget that workplace health and safety is a global issue.  The pressures of work and the daily OHS issues can constrict our perspective for so long that we are surprised when we are reminded that people work everywhere and are therefore in danger in some way. An article (citation below) from the  Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health released online on 12 November 2009 is just one of those reminders that we need every so often.  The article is called “The global and European work environment – numbers, trends, and strategies” and says “We More…

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  • 11/18/09--14:30: The meaning of work
  • A weekly radio program broadcast on Australian community radio station 3CR, Stick Together, broadcast a lecture by Barbara Pocock on the meaning of work. Barbara Pocock is a leading workplace researcher and remains the voice on work/life balance.  She is always worth reading and listening to.  It is impossible to management workplace safety without continuing to learn what work is and how people look at work.  A podcast of the Stick Together program is available for download. Pocock says that many of the perspectives on work are negative and is therefore approached as a chore.  She talks about how laborious jobs have declined More…

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    Some of the best OHS writing comes from the personal.  In a couple of days time a new book will go on sale that illustrates big issues from a niche context and brings to the research a degree of truth from the personal experiences of the author. Pia Markkanen has written “Shoes, glues and homework – dangerous world in the global footwear industry” which packs in a range of issues into one book.  The best summary of the book comes from the Preface written by the series editors. “Pia Markkanen’s extraordinary first hand investigation of More…

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    On 19 January 2010 EuroFound began the fieldwork necessary for the next in its series of surveys of working conditions in Europe.  According to the media release: “Eurofound launches the fieldwork for the fifth European Working Conditions Survey, involving face-to-face interviews of workers in 34 European countries. This critical and timely research tracks the current state of working conditions in Europe, highlights the quality of work and employment, and monitors changing trends. The first findings of the survey will be presented at the end of 2010.” The beginning of fieldwork is far less interesting than the end of More…

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    “A new evidence review* suggests that giving employees more flexibility over their work schedules is likely to boost their health as judged by measures like blood pressure and stress. But interventions that are motivated or dictated by the needs of the employer, such as cutting hours, either have no effect on employee health or make it worse. “Control at work is good for health,” said review co-author Clare Bambra, a researcher at Durham University, in England. “Given the absence of ill health effects associated with employee-controlled flexibility and the evidence of some positive improvements in some More…

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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 JonesFiled under: advertising, first aid, gender, OHS, safety Tagged: OHS, safety

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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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    The second session of the SIA National Convention is flatter than the the first, not because it is not interesting but because it is providing us with the social context for occupational health and safety (OHS) rather than challenging the OHS profession. Bernard Salt is a very high profile demographer whose job is almost entirely about providing social context to whatever we do. He mentioned OHS specifically only four times and then primarily to do with driving trucks but the age data Salt presented shows the need for improvement in the health and wellbeing of More…

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  • 09/06/16--18:58: The youth and gender agenda
  • The Safety Institute’s National Convention was given a youthful injection this morning by the presentation of Dr Jason Fox (pictured below, with beard). He challenged our thinking and our occupational health and safety (OHS) future, even though the sound quality was not as good as it could be leading to some of his words being missed. One of the most visible changes in this conference is the presence of women on the speaker panels.  Each of these panels has illustrated and reinforced the need to change from the usually safety conference speakers, who are experts and More…

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