Unfair expectations on the individual 1

Harvard Business Review (HBR) is a justifiably respected business publication but it often sells occupational health and safety (OHS) short.  A new HBR article, “Stress Is Your Brain Trying to Avoid Something“, is a case in point.

Too much of the contemporary approaches to psychosocial hazards at work focus on the individual without addressing the organisational.  This often compounds the struggles of individual workers and encourages managers to blame workers instead of analysing the organisational and cultural factors that lead to a hazard or incident. More…

5 experts in 60 minutes Reply

Host: ISCRR's Jason Thompson

Host: ISCRR’s Jason Thompson

The Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) has tried a new format for its occupational health and safety (OHS) seminars.  It is not a lunch with a single presenter and it is not a Three-Minute Thesis.  It is five safety researchers in one hour, seven minutes per person and a single question from the floor – and it worked. More…

Psychologically health workplaces 2

In some of his research into the operations of WorkSafe Victoria, OHSIntros provided this graph of workers compensation claims for psychosocial issues. Not only does it show the extent of the issue in recent years, it provides a clear historic starting point for the hazard –  a hazard that has created an industry of its own and that has complicated the management of workplace safety.

Pages from Paper 3 - 30th anniversary of Victorian OHS system 2015

OHSIntros comments on this increase by saying “the conventional rationale in OHS is that when you identify and focus on a risk, the claims flood in…” but significantly states that this logic remains untested. Occupational health and safety (OHS) seems to run on untested logic.

Clearly psychosocial issues in the workplace present a problem. OHSIntros writes that in 2013-14 psychosocial claims overtook manual handling on average cost amounts of A$88,000 to A$67,000, respectively (page 11)

Recently Dr Chris Stevens of Communicorp spoke about psychologically healthy workplaces at a seminar at Herbert Smith Freehills, showing one of the current approaches to this workplace hazard. More…

Sedentary work research features at ergonomics conference Reply

The current International Ergonomics Congress in Melbourne seems to be successful in a number of ways:

  • The size and variety of its program
  • The quality of its keynote speakers
  • Out of 900 delegates, 600 are from outside Australia.

Where it seemed to be less successful was in its profile outside of the ergonomics profession. The information available, some identified on other blog articles, has relevance well beyond ergonomics and it is disappointing that the conference was not marketed more to the general occupational health and safety (OHS) profession. (It should have been possible to exceed 1000 delegates just from local promotion.) The OHS profession needs livening up and have its body of knowledge expanded to areas that both support and challenge its own principles and processes.

Sedentary Work

A major thread in the Congress was the issue of sedentary work, something discussed by the first day’s keynote speaker, Professor David Dunstan, of the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, who discussed research that found More…

Learning safety and leadership from drama 1

Fukushima playMost professionals, including occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals, support the use of stories or narratives or case studies to explain complex scenarios and situations.  Recently, at the ProSafe 2015 conference in Melbourne, acting and theatrical skills were used to illustrate the humanity behind the nuclear disaster of Fukushima.

To the uninitiated this may sound like quantitative risk assessment of underground mining being explained through interpretative dance by bandicoots, but the actors in the Fukushima disaster scenario were captivating and the power of theatre, even in this small-scale and on a conference podium, was powerful, stimulating and engaging. And with a Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle operating in South Australia, super-topical. More…

Safe Work Australia is gearing up for National Safe Work Month Reply

Last year, Safe Work Australia (SWA) gambled on a series of online videos and live events through National Safe Work Month in the form of Virtual Safety Seminars (VSS). VSS provided good online content that continues to be viewed but such a safety communication strategy should stand up to questioning, particularly if it arises from a Government agency.

One of the most important elements of any safety communication strategy is to attempt to measure its success.  The strategy may be aimed at raising awareness of an issue, providing information or promoting a service or product but the important part is to structure the strategy so that it can be measured and for that measurement to occur.  The OHS sector in Australia has a tradition of trying something because it is a good idea and then considering the effort to be a measure of success.  Too many strategies magnify awareness of an issue of which the community is already aware rather than developing a strategy for change, and of tangible change. In some ways the community’s tolerance for awareness over change is starting to wear thin.

With this in mind, SafetyAtWorkBlog posed some questions to Safe Work Australia: More…

10 (better) questions organisations should be asking about workplace bullying 2

On 14 July 2015, Russell Kennedy lawyers published an article “10 better questions organisations should be asking about workplace bullying”. The article is a great example of the type of advice about workplace bullying that lawyers provide to companies.  It is good advice but is limited by the legal process.

Here are my alternate, or complementary, 10 questions for an organisation to ask about workplace bullying, in no particular order: More…

Mental health missing from key OHS statistics Reply

Cover key-whs-stat-2015Part of the core duties of any occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator is the production of data. Recently Safe Work Australia (SWA) released its “Key Work Health and Safety Statistics” for 2015 and given the amount of media attention on workplace mental health, one would expect mental health to be one of the key statistics.  It’s not.

In fact mental health is referenced only once in the document on page 28.  The table states that for the decade of 2000-2001 to 2010-2011

“mental disorders…did not display a clear overall trend of increase or decrease”.

This is significant in the context of workplace mental health reporting.  Is the reported increase in workplace mental health a myth?  Safe Work Australia’s statistics seems to support this. More…

Book Launch of Job Quality in Australia 1

Last week this blog reviewed the book Job Quality in Australia emphasising how worker safety, health and well-being is a vital element of job quality which, in turn, is crucial for Australia’s productivity. In preparation for a book launch in Sydney on 23 June 2015, the University of Sydney has released a media statement (available online later today) from one of the book’s authors and editors, Professor Angela Knox.

According to the media release, Professor Knox believes that:

“You measure job quality through wages, job security, training and skill development, and career development opportunities…. Australia is falling behind the developed world because we don’t have proactive policies that will allow us to improve the quality of jobs.”

“If we don’t actively work towards improving the quality of jobs personal wellbeing declines, job satisfaction declines and this limits productivity, employment levels, innovation and economic growth…

“We need to educate employers so that they know what their choices are and how they can go about improving jobs…. Good policies and education lead to a virtuous cycle of high quality jobs boosting further job growth.”

Kevin Jones

ACTU Congress’ draft OHS policies deserve serious analysis 2

Pages from draft-2015-actu-congress-policies-2015-consolidatedThe Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) commences its 2015 Congress this week.  Each year around 800 trade union delegates meet to discuss changes to policies and to develop or refine strategies. This year the ACTU released its draft policies publicly prior to the Congress.  These policies have a long and strong historical and industrial relations context.  Occupational health and safety (OHS) is an important part of these policies and should spark discussions in the union movement and the OHS profession.

Early in the document, the ACTU states its “bargaining agenda” in which is included

“better work, life and family balance.” (page 7)

Curiously, the ACTU has chosen “better” rather than “safe”.  Better is a more inclusive term but harder to define.  Better for whom?  Better could be better paid or more secure or safer.

Trade unionists often see OHS as being monitored and enforced through the mechanism of the Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and would argue that OHS is throughout all the draft policies due to the HSR role but there are more workplaces in Australia without HSRs than with and it is worth considering the policies as independent from the HSR structure, if that is possible.. More…