Most organisational occupational health and safety (OHS) interventions focus on controlling employee procedures and the physical work environment in an effort to maximise workplace safety. While such efforts are important, they do not take into account the human factors related to work safety, such as individual and group attitudes and the influence of management.
Recent research involving members of the RightPeople team has found that there is an important interaction between management attitudes, work pressure and individual attitudes in determining whether an employee will follow safety procedures.
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Australia’s Aging Workforce
The ageing of Australia’s workforce is one of businesses’ major emerging challenges. By 2044-45 it is estimated that 25% of Australians will be aged 65 years or over, which is approximately double the present population.
Additionally, over the last decade the average age of the Australian workforce (especially the full-time workforce) has been increasing faster than the average age of the general population (Department of Parliamentary Services, 2005).
In September 2010 there were approximately 5.8 million adults not in the labour force. Over 3.3 million, or 57% of these people were aged 55 years and over (The Australian Institute for Social Research, 2008). As more people move into older age groups, overall workforce participation rates are predicted to substantially drop. Some estimates project that there will be a loss of one third of the workforce over the next two decades to retirement, redundancy and illness/disability (The Australian Institute for Social Research, 2008).
By early next decade labour demand is expected to exceed supply (Productivity Commission, 2005).
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Incidents such as the leak of the cancer-causing chemical hexavalent chromium by Orica in Newcastle in August last year highlight the importance of safety procedures and proper handling of health and safety incidents by organisations.
Following the leak the plant was closed for 6 months, it reportedly lost $90 million in earnings, it faced court over breaching Environmental Protection laws and the incident was the subject of a NSW Health health and safety risk assessment and two government inquiries.
The incident also forced changes in environmental protection laws, which now require companies to notify authorities immediately after an incident that poses a risk to the environment, with fines of up to $2 million for failing to do so.
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