Bedwetters Anonymous

Bedwetters Anonymous

All professions are conspiracies against the laity

George Bernard Shaw 1

health and safety manThe recent resources boom across Australasia involved construction of major gas projects throughout Queensland, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Papua New Guinea. This created an unprecedented demand for the provision of health and safety advisors, who were also required throughout the mining and renewable energy sectors. It placed a tremendous strain on human resources. The activity was often subcontracted to recruitment consultants or labour hiring agencies and included engagement of migrants on temporary working visas. Discussions with many colleagues and personal experience confirms resourcing processes were somewhat rudimentary and fragmented. This has damaged the legitimacy of industrial safety and left it morally bereft and philosophically rudderless. It is treated with disrespect and regularly disparaged amongst the civil, mechanical and electrical engineering professions and many other disciplines. 210

At the turn of the millennium, the federal government under John Howard intensified its political and economic destabilisation campaign. It received ingratiating assistance from the four horsemen of the apocalypse, which included Peter Reith (Conquest), Kevin Andrews (Famine), Tony Abbott (War) and Philip Ruddock (Death). The truly independent National Occupational Health and Safety Commission was eviscerated and shifted to Canberra. Its entire epidemiology unit refused reallocation offers and only nine commission employees relocated. It was eventually disbanded and officially dissolved in 2006. Meanwhile, government funding for research and education establishments was brutally slashed. 1118

Back in 1979, the Ballarat College of Advanced Education launched its graduate diploma in occupational hazard management and eventually established the highly acclaimed Victoria Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (VIOSH Australia). This was integrated into its engineering faculty at the University of Ballarat Mount Helen campus and offered an extensive range of tertiary education courses. Its funding and other resources were eventually gutted and many senior lecturers and eminent academics became collateral damage. Following a merger with the Monash University Churchill campus it became Federation University and no longer offers any professional accredited safety education programs. 1924

The sandstone University of Sydney offered a Master of Occupational Health and Safety program under the guidance of its emeritus professor Ron McCallum. However this course was terminated in 1996, shortly before the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission vacated its Sydney headquarters, which were conveniently adjacent to the Camperdown campus and Office of the New South Wales State Coroner. 2529

The University of New South Wales also provided an extensive range of tertiary education programs via several notable academics including Michael Tooma, Michael Quinlan, Jean Cross and the late Chris Winder. However in 2010, following a realignment of strategy its School of Risk and Safety Sciences closed and courses were no longer delivered. The Australian National University in Canberra established the National Research Centre for OHS Regulation, which advocated excellence in occupational health and safety research and regulation. It received funding from the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission, the Australian Research Council, Safe Work Australia and several state regulatory authorities. Research was conducted under the guidance of its directors and prolific researchers, which included Neil Gunningham, Richard Johnstone, Liz Bluff and Jan Hayes. In recent years grants or funding were reduced to breadcrumbs and studies diminished significantly. This prolonged political and economic destabilisation campaign forced many established institutions to seek alternative funding via corporate business partnerships, which is overtly promoted on several university websites. The University of Western Australia Business School engages with external corporate partners including BHP, Wesfarmers, Woodside and Clough….To create enduring and mutually beneficial partnerships. Its alumni is a cast of flamboyant entrepreneurs although several notable omissions include Brian Burke, Laurie Connell, Warren Anderson, Tom Domican and the late Christopher Dale Flannery. 3053

Central Queensland University….Is committed to developing strong and mutually beneficial partnerships with business and industry. This provides opportunities for research, scholarships, training and supply of goods or services. Business partners include Rio Tinto, BHP, Anglo Coal, Glencore and the Queensland Resources Council. At Monash University an Industry Council of Advisers plays an integral role in its business engagement strategy. This includes executives from many corporate behemoths, which enables the university to establish sustainable relationships with industrial and commercial sectors. 5461

The adverse impact on education and research is quite predictable and somewhat malevolent. Indeed, the safety curriculum at these institutions embraces scientism or positivism. Its objective science, technology, engineering and maths paradigm adopts a mechanistic systems approach with a myopic and extremely narrow focus on behaviour and culture. It disregards many of risk’s subjective elements and its inordinate emphasis on legislation, compliance and enforcement with indoctrinating slogans and absolute ideologies such as zero harm embraces or encourages individualism. This destructs incidental learning and progressively destroys communities of practice. 6271

Numerous universities, business schools and colleges have since degenerated into callous mercenary enterprises and student affluence takes precedence over academic aptitude. The curriculum is designed to reflect the objectives of its platinum corporate sponsors, which align with the Friedman doctrine on corporate social responsibility. It distorts the quality, diversity and standard of education, which eventually deteriorates and the sector becomes inundated with cohorts of graduates holding superficial degrees or doctorates. This unhealthy alliance with corporate sponsors also has a detrimental effect on research activities. Any grants or funding can compromise independence and emasculate the integrity of epidemiological health studies or surveys. Its extent is quite sinister and scientism has an established tradition of manipulating evidence, data and analysis to create and maintain an auspicious environment for industry at material and ideological levels. 7274

Safe Work Australia

Safe Work Australia is a federal government statutory agency, which develops national policy relating to work health and safety and workers’ compensation. It was established under the Safe Work Australia Act in a feeble attempt to restore true independence, tripartite arrangements and integrity following the dissolution of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission. This legislation prescribes requirements covering disclosure of interests to the minister in accordance with the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act. It also provides the incumbent minister for jobs and industrial relations with excessive and formidable authority, which includes the appointment of a chair and nominated government, employer and employee representatives. 7578

The current chair has a rather colourful and strident corporate background, which includes previous executive and senior management roles with the Westpac Banking Corporation. This organisation came under intense scrutiny during the recent banking royal commission and has lost its moral compass, which is impossible because it never had one. At the turn of the millennium, a tenure with McKinsey & Company was embraced with unbridled enthusiasm and attracted a flattering sobriquet from several colleagues. A more recent role as chairperson with infrastructure company Broadspectrum, which managed the barbaric regional processing centre on Manus Island may have weathered the abrasive leadership traits. 7985

Each year Safe Work Australia supports national safe work month and a recent theme consists of another slogan and sophism…….A moment is all it takes but the resurgence of black lung in Queensland’s coal mining industry took rather longer. The promotional video features the chairperson delivering the refrain with the sincerity and compassion of a commercial television news anchor. It appears somewhat incongruous with previous executive appointments, especially the tenures at Westpac and Broadspectrum and it is redolent of rank hypocrisy. In an era of rampant casino capitalism, the revolving doors are well lubricated for the barbarians at the gate and a perception of regulatory capture prevails. Additional roles include an appointment as a board member with the University of Western Australia Business School and sinecures as a non-executive director with Wesfarmers and AGL Energy. 8699

The University of Western Australia and Monash University received funding from Alcoa for an independent Healthwise study, which confirmed there was no causal nexus between working conditions and adverse health effects experienced by Alcoa employees. The state government under Alan Carpenter eventually approved the controversial expansion of the Alcoa Wagerup facility. The former labour premier joined Wesfarmers as its executive general manager corporate affairs in December 2009 and has since transitioned to a senior advisor role and collaborates with the group managing director. It is a diversified company and its primary objective is…….To provide a satisfactory return for its shareholders, which mirrors the Friedman doctrine. Its industrials division includes Blackwoods, a major supplier of personal protective and safety equipment. It also owns the National Safety Council of Australia, a registered training organisation that offers an extensive range of consulting and training services. The current chair of Safe Work Australia joined the Wesfarmers board as a non-executive director in August 2009. 100114

The Safe Work Australia strategy is reinforced by a superficial vision for…….Healthy, safe and productive working lives. This is supported by a rather tenuous statement and another sophism proclaiming….It has been shown that good work health and safety improves long term business productivity. This furtively promotes neoliberal free market policies, which advocate a laissez faire approach and deregulation. 115117

The causal nexus between safety and productivity (production per unit of time) is diffuse, probabilistic and certainly not deterministic, which is reflected in the International Commission on Occupational Health code of ethics. It is also incompatible with the fundamental tenet of safety legislation, which is to secure the health and safety of people at work. Labour, which encompasses health, safety and welfare is independent of and far superior to capital and conjoining safety to productivity could be considered unethical. Indeed, exceptional productivity does not equate to superior safety performance and reinforces that correlation does not imply causation. 118121

The global intensification of state and corporate interests worships productivity or profit like manna from heaven and treats labour as a disposable commodity or collateral damage. This is reflected by the increasing disdain and shallow commitment from neoliberal governments towards workplace health and safety. Indeed grants and sponsorships provided by Safe Work Australia since 2016 amount to less than $180,000. Moreover, David Cameron’s infamous comment to……………..Kill off the health and safety monster for good has reverberated around the world. 122124

Safety Institute of Australia

The Safety Institute of Australia is the national association for the health and safety profession. It liaises with corporate and strategic partners who share its goals and collaboratively engages with organisations to ensure objectives are achieved. It was originally a member of the National Occupational Health and Commission and supported a range of tertiary educational programs via the University of Ballarat and its Victoria Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (VIOSH Australia). This ceased following dissolution of the commission and grants or sponsorships from Safe Work Australia since 2010 have amounted to a meagre $15,500. It recently endured a prolonged bout of disunity and internecine bickering, which culminated in civil action for defamation with a significant undisclosed out of court settlement. 125131

The global transformation from liberal capitalism to corporate dictatorship has witnessed the Safety Institute of Australia embrace the Friedman doctrine and discussions between colleagues indicate it operates like a captured agency. It is merely another cog in an enormous festering Ponzi scheme, which embraces franchising and pyramid selling with aggressive and deceptive telemarketing. This is reflected by its vision for…….Safe and healthy workers in productive workplaces and commercial imperatives via an unsubstantiated link between safety, health and productivity can compromise integrity and professional ethics. The Safety Institute of Australia was recently assigned copyright for the OHS Body of Knowledge and accepted financial responsibility for its maintenance and any future development projects. However, its funds are somewhat restricted and it welcomes corporate sponsorship, which creates conflict of interest and significantly increases the risk of regulatory capture. The body of knowledge provides a foundation for accreditation of professional education programs through the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board. This is stacked with political appointments and its byzantine network with potential conflicts of intertest is quite astounding and inevitably ensures safety curricula align with the Friedman doctrine. 132141

The body of knowledge also facilitates proficiency of safety professionals via the Safety Institute of Australia certification scheme, which aligns with the Global OHS Capability Framework from the International Network of Safety and Health Practitioner Organisations. This details the capability and credibility of safety practitioners and professionals but the descriptors are merely splitting hairs with trivial distinctions and pettifogging. It is littered with ambiguity, vainglorious marketing bilge, obscurantist drivel and binary logic with a discourse of perfection and denial of fallibility. 142148

Extensive criticism regarding its inordinate positivism and Weltanschauung or worldview has emerged. It remains influenced by accident theory with a narrow focus on operant conditioning, rational decision making and a didactic concept of culture as…..The way we do things around here. This is exacerbated by fundamentalist zero harm, ideology, which was endorsed at the recent World Congress on Safety and Health at Work in Singapore. An obsession with science, engineering, regulation and metrics has created a brutal compliance and enforcement regime. However, any quest for professionalisation requires a transdisciplinary approach with a focus on caring, listening and learning as opposed to telling, blame, crime and punishment. 149156

The certification scheme includes initial application, upgrade and annual maintenance fees with special discounts and a set of steak knives for Safety Institute of Australia members. Moreover, extensive lobbying has commenced to legislate the process, which is merely a cash cow and redolent of regulatory capture. It will eventually involve franchising and degenerate into a tyranny of bureaucracy. Commercial imperatives will destroy its integrity and render certification meaningless. It will become as ineffective as construction inductions, independent or self-insurance audits, inspection reports, proprietary incident investigations and certificates or verification of competency nostrums. Indeed, the only individuals who could possibly fail a white card induction are the incumbent federal education minister or his predecessor. 157166

Another disturbing trend following dissolution of the National Occupational Health and Safety Commission involves the retirement of many eminent safety academics. Most of the prolific researchers from the 1980s including Dennis Else, Michael Quinlan, Neil Gunningham et al will require successors but insufficient funding and a shift in educational strategies is potentially devastating. The Safety Institute of Australia has created several trojan horses via its Young Safety Professionals and Women in Safety and Health networks. This merely regurgitates and promotes professional certification, accident theory, human factors or cultural maturity via its body of knowledge. Indeed, a #whsblacklivesmatter campaign or LGBQTIXYZ safety practitioner fellowship is imminent…….Hasta cuando. 167178

Despite its quest for professionalisation, the Safety Institute of Australia does not have a code of ethics. It is merely a signatory to a Victorian Code of Ethics and Minimum Service Standards, which was developed by the Health and Safety Professionals Alliance. This does not advocate any causal nexus between safety and productivity and offers guidance on ethical and service standard issues. Over many years, industrial safety has gone to utmost extremes to establish a presence but it appears incapable of ascertaining its identity. Many colleagues have removed safety descriptors from their job title, which was perceived as a barbecue stopper and often treated with mirth, contempt or disdain. This is reflected via the Safety Institute of Australia’s abysmal response to the resurgence of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis. Despite its vision, mission statement and values, it failed to provide any submissions to the parliamentary inquiry or afford official representation at the numerous public hearings………Hello darkness my old friend. 179185

National Safety Council of Australia

The National Safety Council of Australia has a turbulent and chequered history and its Victoria division attracted extensive media coverage during the 1980s, which involved a $300 million fraudulent scheme and embezzlement via its charismatic executive director. More recent investigations indicate the publishing and lodgement of its financial statements with the Australian Taxation Office supported by creative accounting practices was somewhat mediocre or even deceitful. 186189

Declarations were littered with elementary errors including concealed tax liabilities, insufficient superannuation payments and unrecorded credit card expenses. The organisation was technically insolvent and its fiscal chicanery did little to preserve or enhance public confidence in the not for profit sector. It only remained trading via a commercial arrangement with the tax office, which allowed the organisation to gradually reimburse its $1.5 million tax liabilities. Any private firm operating in such a precarious financial predicament would have been placed under external administration. It was eventually thrown a lifeline and acquired by Wesfarmers and integrated into its industrials and safety division with Blackwoods, Bullivants and Greencap. This offers industry an extensive range of health and safety risk management consulting services and vocational training programs supplemented by a comprehensive selection of personal protective and industrial safety equipment. 190200

The diversification creates vested interests with numerous self-serving opportunities and its trajectory is somewhat sinister. Much like franchising it surreptitiously obfuscates or circumvents legislative duty of care requirements. Consulting services are usually displacement activities and merely borrow your watch to tell you the time. It usually involves implementation of lower order controls, which provides a satisfactory return for its shareholders as opposed to securing the health and safety of people at work. This culminates in a tyranny of bureaucracy, which generates a foreboding culture of compliance and enforcement underpinned by blame and fear with increasing psychosocial risks. It often exacerbated by standard operating procedures for mundane activities such as tying safety boot laces or climbing stairwells. Project sites become festooned with meaningless warning signs, which are supplemented by indoctrinating inductions and certificates or verification of competency from an accredited facilitator. 201207

The primary objective of Wesfarmers is to provide a satisfactory return to its shareholders, which reflects the Friedman doctrine. Its only social responsibility is to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits provided it fulfils legislative requirements and partakes in open and free competition without deception or fraud. Its managing director is a member of the University of Western Australia Business School advisory board, which also includes the current chair of Safe Work Australia, who is a non-executive director with Wesfarmers. There are prescribed requirements covering disclosure of interest under the Safe Work Australia Act 2008 but somewhat remarkably these can be retracted for matters relating to model legislation or codes of practice. A member of the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board is the general manager of safety, health and wellbeing with Coles, a Wesfarmers subsidiary. This incestuous network of vipers renders it quite difficult to establish who or what is the head of the snake. Indeed, a perception of materialist and cognitive regulatory capture prevails, especially following its recent acquisitions…..O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive. 208221

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