Clichés and stereotypes are some of the biggest safety risks in Australian industry, according to leading occupational health and safety specialist Dr Marcus Cattani.
“Technical industries have traditionally dismissed good people skills as the “warm and fuzzy” side of business but the latest government guidelines show these jokes are dangerous.
“It is not surprising that organisations with this attitude are still struggling with injuries and typically say ‘where the hell did that come from?’ whenever someone gets hurt.”
Dr Cattani said draft safety guidelines released by the WA Department of Mines and Petroleum in May 2014 showed poor supervision, communication and worker engagement were major contributors to accidents and fatalities in Australia.
While the new guidelines were a step in the right direction, they didn’t go far enough, he said.
“The guidelines give companies a head start but those without a strong safety culture and consistent leadership training will struggle to comply.
“You can’t just give a tradie a few extra dollars, change their job title and expect them to be a great leader the next day. New leaders have to be trained in the same way they were trained from apprentice to tradesman.”
The Guidelines were released on the back of a WA Government report earlier this year which said that workers in their first two years on a job were at highest risk of injury, particularly when their supervisor had less than three years’ experience.
Dr Cattani, whose 8-step Journey Program has become a model in safety leadership training since it was first released in 2012, said the new guidelines would help focus industry attention on its leaders and supervisors but did little to show organisations how to change.
"Almost 3000 Australians have died at work in the past decade. Nine people have lost their lives in the mining industry in the past six months. That is triple the number at the same time last year. Transport industry deaths were also up 40% in the same period.
“This means workers need structured leadership training and industry has to be prepared to support new employees for the first 2 to 3 years, not just the usual half a day induction.
“Traditionally industry has depended on regimented work procedures and engineering to eliminate safety hazards but those days are gone.
“Despite decades of legislation demanding better supervision we are notoriously poor at ensuring our leaders are good communicators.
“We have all heard the jokes, but here we have governmental guidance calling for a series of “warm and fuzzy” actions. As with all guidance, there is an expectation that organisations equal or exceed this standard. So, I suggest that organisations get to know what it means to them, as the inspectors will expect them to have put these things in place.”