Is there only one way to keep workers safe?
Last week I was in Brisbane, Queensland on Australia’s east coast. Here’s a jurisdiction a bit bigger in population than British Columbia, a little smaller than Washington State, with a low injury rate and low workers’ compensation premiums (“workcover” as it’s called in Australia).
Brisbane is a modern, cosmopolitan city of three million. There are obvious signs of a vital economy. Buildings are going up, transportation networks are expanding, and unemployment is around five percent (vs. B.C. and Washington state where unemployment is hovering around the eight percent mark).
The workers that keep this economy running are engaged in similar activities to those in any large city. Perhaps because I’m aware of occupational safety and health issues, I couldn’t help but notice some similarities and differences.
Above the city, the complex choreography of cranes carries on as it does over urban construction sites everywhere. The cranes; however, are predominantly luffing jib cranes rather than the straight boom, hammerhead slewing cranes more commonly seen in many North American cities.
I mention these examples to illustrate a point. Regardless of our national context, employers, workers, and OH&S regulators face similar workplace safety and health challenges. Each jurisdiction has developed solutions to manage risks to workers and other persons in the workplace. Not all solutions are the same. Sure, exit signs are ubiquitous, but the green and white graphic signs in Australia seemed just as clear to me as the red and black text-based exit signs we see in North America.
I’m not sure you could say any given solution is the only right way to protect workers, nor am I saying that you can simply transplant a standard from one jurisdiction to another. What I’m saying is that the diversity among developed western societies creates an opportunity for OH&S professionals to consider solutions others have implemented. Another important reason for building relationships across our jurisdictions.
About Terry Bogyo:
Terry is the Director of Corporate Planning and Development for WorkSafeBC. His current responsibilities include environmental scanning, strategic planning and inter-jurisdictional comparisons.
Terry says of himself: I am a student of workers’ compensation systems. Many years ago I discovered two things about this area. First, workers’ comp and OH&S are of vital importance to people. Protecting, caring for and providing compensation to workers are important, noble and morally responsible endeavors. The second thing I learned was that no matter how much I knew about workers' comp/OH&S, there was always so much more to learn. This is an endlessly challenging area of study. My purpose, therefore, is not to lecture, but to reflect on the ideas and issues that are topical in this area... and to invite others to share in a learning experience. By adding your knowledge and insights, others with similar interests can participate in the discovery and study of this important domain.
His blog is "Workers' Compensation Perspectives".