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The world of work has undergone profound changes in the past four decades as has the wider society including challenges posed by rising levels of income inequality, burgeoning global population, resource depletion, environmental degradation and rapid climate change. These trends interact in complex ways but the need for a more sustainable approach to managing organisations and society is becoming ever clearer. At the same time these challenges present opportunities to devise and implement more sustainable, effective and multi-modal interventions and OHS can be a key element of this.
We can also draw on positive developments as well as learning from the past – and thereby avoiding re-living it. This means avoiding past failures (like unregulated subcontracting or an over-emphasis on behavioural interventions in OHS) and using knowledge more effectively.
To illustrate this, the presentation will initially focus on 10 pattern causes of death and serious harm at work and how this can be used to build safer workplaces in very different work-settings (from mines to entertainment parks). It will then highlight the ethical and wider-sustainability rationale for these interventions by briefly examining the impact of workplaces death on families and how the 10 pattern failure points also has relevance to understanding recent financial disasters and preventing a recurrence.
Finally, I will examine how work organisation affects health, psychosocial wellbeing and safety at work including the impact of ‘new’ forms of work. Again, understanding underlying causes affords opportunities for more effective interventions and ways in which the OHS profession can demonstrate its relevance and value into the future.
Michael Quinlan is emeritus professor of industrial relation in the School of Management. He also holds an honorary professorial post in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Tasmania and a visiting appointment in the Business School, Middlesex University London. His research has focused on work organisation and regulatory aspects of occupational health and safety (OHS), the impact of workplace death and industrial relations history and policy. He is the author of numerous articles and ten books.
In 2014 he published Ten Pathways to Death and Disaster: Learning from fatal incidents in mines and other high hazard workplaces (Federation Press, Sydney). The book identified the ten pattern/repeat causes of death in workplaces and how these types of incidents could be avoided. Together with Lynda Matthews and Philip Bohle (University of Sydney) he undertook an ARC funded study of the impact of traumatic workplace death on families. He has been involved in preparing a number of reports on occupational health and safety for governments (including investigations and audits) in Australia and New Zealand including trucking safety (2001 and 2008), the Beaconsfield gold mine fatality (2006-7), the Comcare Review (2008), the Pike River mine disaster (2011) and audits of the Tasmanian mines inspectorate (2010,2012 & 2014). He has served on a number government OHS advisory bodies including the Expert Reference Group on post-Pike River mine safety regulation and the NZ Extractive Industry Advisory Group (current).
In 2006-7 he was member of the team that prepared a report on employment inequalities and health for the World Health Organisation’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. Michael has also been a member of international teams preparing reports on labour inspectorate responses to new and emerging risks at work for the European Commission (2011) and a report on the determinants of OHS practice for the EU Occupational Safety and Health Agency in 2013). He has also done expert work for Safework Australia (including a discussion paper on supply chains and networks in 2013) and the International Labour Organisation (including a working paper on non-standard work and OHS in 2015).
The Dr Eric Wigglesworth AM Memorial Lecture is presented in conjunction with the SIA’s Annual Education Awards. This year, the lecture coincides with the SIA National Health & Safety Conference which will be held from 22-23 May at the International Convention Centre Sydney. Now in its tenth year, the Dr Eric Wigglesworth AM Memorial Lecture is an annual event presented by the Safety Institute of Australia. The event was established to recognise the pioneering contributions and engagement of Dr Wigglesworth in the field of occupational health and safety.