Workplace bullying policy matters are at their peak in Australia this week as public hearings occur at the House Standing Committee on Education and Employment inquiry into workplace bullying. Several experts on the prevention of workplace bullying will be appearing at these hearings but the topicality also allows others to release or promote data on workplace bullying.
Safety Consultants Australia (SCA) released a “blueprint” on Safety Hazard: Workplace Bullying in March 2012 that has been recirculated this week. The blueprint is a useful example of the care that needs to be taken when summarising data on workplace bullying.
SCA states, IN VERY BIG LETTERS, that the Productivity Commission estimated that
“Workplace Bullying costs Australian employers between $6 – $36 billion every year.”
SCA has released a flyer with the same information in EVEN BIGGER LETTERS however the Productivity Commission’s report Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation: Occupational Health & Safety (2010) states on page 279:
“Estimates of the prevalence and cost of psychosocial hazards vary considerably. For example, using international studies as a guide, estimates of the annual cost of workplace bullying to employers and the economy in Australia ranged from $6 billion to $36 billion (in 2000).” More…
Next week Australia holds public hearings into the issue of workplace bullying. Currently the House Standing Committee on Education and Employment has not yet made any submissions publicly available which handicaps the value of the public hearings for observers but the Trade Unions have released their submissions. Generally, the suggestions for control measures are progressive but the submissions also indicate the extent of the challenge in “controlling” workplace bullying and some of the challenges facing this inquiry.
The ACTU claims that workplace bullying was given national prominence following a survey of union members in 2000 but that survey is not representative of the broader Australian community and should be treated with caution. The ACTU submission seeks support for its survey results from more authoritative sources such as Safe Work Australia and the Productivity Commission. But neither of these sources indicates workplace bullying to be as big an issue as the ACTU claims.
Safe Work Australia’s figures, quoted by the ACTU , say that in
“In 2007/08, 26% of accepted workers compensation claims for mental stress in Australia resulted in 26 or more weeks off work.”
The significance in this quote is that bullying is not mentioned and if one accepts that bullying is a subset of mental stress and psychosocial hazards, bullying should be only a fraction of the 26% figure. It is also the case that it is common for victims of bullying to eliminate the hazard through resignation rather than lodge workers’ compensation claims. So one metric may indicate a low bullying rate but another indicates a “hidden” rate. Accurate measurement, the accumulation of evidence, is a major problem in any study of workplace bullying and is a major challenge for this Parliamentary Inquiry. More…
In a recent edition of Safety Express, a newsletter from WorkSafe Victoria, Clarke Martin outlined the benefits of WorkSafe’s Owner Visit program to one regional company. This good news story needed more depth and detail so Clark Martin provided SafetyAt WorkBlog with additional information.
The Safety Express article outlined that a company of over 200 employees gained advice through WorkSafe’s free 6-hour consultancy service and has
“…made significant savings in insurance premiums over a two-year period. The financial and safety benefits are continuing today.”
“The company agreed to make significant changes to the way the business managed its OHS and RTW, and the financial management of premium costs.”
“WorkSafe worked with the company for two years and in this time the EPR dropped to just 34 per cent above average and work is continuing to further improve its performance. The company advised WorkSafe that savings achieved from reduced insurance premiums was equivalent to the profits on producing and selling an additional $16m of product.” More…
There are two newspaper reports in Australia on 21 June 2012 about the Victorian Police Force that illustrate a fractious safety culture and a major organisational and ideological impediment to reducing workplace bullying.
The Australian article ” OPI concedes failure against force’s culture” (only available to subscribers) states that:
‘The Office of Police Integrity has conceded it and other corruption fighting measures have failed to root out the entrenched culture of reprisals and mateship in pockets of the Victoria Police that seriously harms the force….”
“The OPI says current law fails to deal with why whistleblowers are targeted. ‘‘The legislated protections against retaliation do not address the root cause of reprisal — a workplace culture of misguided loyalty,’’ it argues. “The protections are individualistic and short-term, tending to ‘look after’ victims and potential victims of reprisal rather than address why reprisal occurs.’’
“Despite the subsequent formation of the OPI and the beefing up of the Ombudsman’s powers, police still struggled to break free of the shackles of loyalty and the so-called brotherhood.’
The Age article, “A fifth of police bullied at work“, reports on a government survey circulated to 14,000 people.
‘The figures, provided to The Age, mean about 1250 of the 4200 police staff who completed the survey have seen bullying behaviour, while nearly 900 say they have been bullied.’ More…
A recent article in Science about OHS inspections has gained considerable attention after Michael Blanding wrote about the findings in a Harvard Business School blog. According to the executive summary:
“In a natural field experiment, researchers [ Associate Professor Michael W. Toffel and colleague David I. Levine] found that companies subject to random OSHA inspections showed a 9.4 percent decrease in injury rates compared with uninspected firms.
The researchers found no evidence of any cost to inspected companies complying with regulations. Rather, the decrease in injuries led to a 26 percent reduction in costs from medical expenses and lost wages translating to an average of $350,000 per company.
The findings strongly indicate that OSHA regulations actually save businesses money.”
That research should give enormous heart to OHS regulators around the world and reduce criticism from business groups. The findings have been defined as “definitive” but this is like saying that research into Scandinavian workplaces and society can be relevant to other countries. Research in OHS and workers compensation in the United States is relevant to the United States with mostly curiosity value to other nations. More…
Many organisations are beginning to assess their performance in occupational health and safety (OHS), mostly through spreadsheet graphics and lead and lag indicators. These “databases” provide comparisons of activity with the hope of showing positive progress on safety. FindTheBest.com has been building comparison websites for some time and has applied their mystical Web2.0 algorithms to workplace safety data from the United States in its FindTheData website. It has several sites that may be of interest to OHS professionals – Work Injuries and Death and Dangerous Jobs.
Dangerous Jobs allows you to select the occupational categories you are interested in and then compare their statistical data. For instance, comparing Farmers and Ranchers to Structural Steel Workers shows an annual fatality rate of 39.7 to 30.3 based on hours, respectively. These comparisons are based on data from the United States Department of Labor statistics. But the question on the comparison is so what? What benefit can be gained by comparing these two sets of data? None, as far as I can see.
The glossary for Dangerous Jobs lists the top couple of popular comparisons as
- Top 7 Most Dangerous Jobs in US
- Police and sheriff’s patrol officers vs. Electricians
The first has curiosity value but the second is reminiscent of the adolescent (or drunk) speculation on who would win in a fight between Darth Vader and Gigantor? Pointless speculation that sounds like it could result in some interesting information. Just maybe. Perhaps. More…
Australian recruiting company, Hays, has released its annual salary surveyin which it says that there is increasing demand for OHS professionals in Australia however the salary levels seem comparatively low, particularly at the entry-level. The survey says that the introduction of harmonised OHS laws in most Australian States has:
“…led to increased accountability and thus demand for high risk safety experts.”
It could be said that many safety experts have been “high risk” but the quote above places safety in a risk context. Safety professionals must be able to understand and deal with business risks in the broader context. In some sectors risk management integrates OHS but in others, where risk management is almost exclusively concerned with insurances and safety is the purview of a Health and Safety Representative, OHS is shunned as a foreign concept or a poorly under threat. More…
Many business groups in Australia have been bemoaning the potential increase in OHS compliance paperwork, often on the basis if the impact on small business, applying the logic that the small business sector has the least capacity to cope. Yet a survey of small business attitudes to “red tape” released this week questions the level of concern over OHS.
The June 2012 Sensis Business Index clearly shows that almost one-quarter of Australian small businesses want taxation regulation to be reformed most of all. Only 2% believed that OHS was the regulation needing most reform.
CEO of the Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia, Peter Strong, stated that
“The findings…. provide a framework for many important areas of regulatory reform that will benefit small business…”
As a tool for lobbying government on taxation reform, the survey results are supportive but in relation to OHS reform, OHS is equal to pay rates and planning regulations at 2%. More…
SafetyAtWorkBlog has been informed that an Irish backpacker was working on a farm near Gravesend in New South Wales in late May 2012 and received serious back injuries when the quad bike, from which he was spot spraying weeds, rolled on an embankment. The man was taken to hospital after contacting the farmer for assistance.
A spokesperson from WorkCover NSW has confirmed that
“….a 26 year old male worker was injured on a property at Gravesend near Moree …. on Thursday, 31 May. Initial enquiries indicate that the worker was spot spraying weeds on the property and has suffered back injuries from a quad bike incident when he attempted to ride out of a gully.”
At this time, Workcover was unable to say whether
- the worker had received any motorcycle or quad bike training.
- the quad bike had any attachments or modifications.
- the worker was wearing a helmet or other PPE at the time.
It is understood that the worker had been on the farm for only a few days.
We have been unable to find any media or online references to this incident.
On 24 May 2012, a week before the incident above, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s AM program ran an interview about the quad bike related fatality of an 11-year-old boy in 2011.
A longer audio interview on quad bike safety was conducted by ABC Rural in September 2011. The participants were Tony Williams of WorkCover NSW and John Lambert of the Forensic Engineering Society of Australia but the most significant quality of the interview was the solid understanding of agricultural safety shown by the interviewer.
The latest Andrew Hopkins book steers clear of analysing corporate leadership, and this is a good thing. Australian National University sociologist, Andrew Hopkins, has established an international reputation for his enlightening analyses of the failures of organisational culture in major disasters but his latest book, Disastrous Decisions: The Human and Organisational Causes of the Gulf of Mexico Blowout, purposely leaves leadership out.
This may disappoint many but Hopkins says that
“The critical role of top leaders in accident prevention cannot, however, be overstated. It is they who must learn from major accidents and, unless they do, nothing can be expected to change.
There is one group of decision-makers that has received rather less attention in accident investigations: office-based engineers.” (page 8) More…