Applying a “bullshit filter” during Mental Health Week 5

Cover of MCA_Mental_Health_Blueprint_FINALThis week in Australia is Mental Health Week.  Some call it an Mental Health Awareness Week.  Either way the Australian media will be full of experts and “experts”.  Workplace health strategies will not be excluded but when reading and listening to this media content, one important point should be remembered – “mental health” is significantly different from “mental illness”.

Such differentiation should not be dismissed as semantics because health, illness, problems and disorders involve different levels of analysis and diagnosis and, therefore, different strategies, interventions and control measures.

Recently the Minerals Council of Australia released its mental health blueprint in which the following important definitions were prominent. More…

Workplace resilience gets a kicking Reply

The Age newspaper has published a feature article entitled “Workplace resilience: It’s all a great big con“. Although it does not mention occupational health and safety (OHS) specifically, it is applying the OHS principle of addressing the causes of workplace injury and ill-health.  It says that workplace resilience and similar training courses and strategies:

“… can’t overcome the structural realities and power imbalances that characterise the employment relationship. “Workplace resilience” might help us bear up to stress, but it won’t solve its underlying causes. And the causes of workplace unhappiness don’t necessarily reside in the individual and their own ability to “be resilient” or “relax” – they are part of the economic structures within which we work.”


Muddled talk is not helping OHS Reply

A short discussion* in Tasmania’s Parliament on 16 September 2015 is illustrative of the use of language to answer a question, just not necessarily the question asked.  This type of political language has existed for centuries and will continue to do so but it contributes to people’s confusion about occupational health and safety (OHS) and the regulators’ role in enforcing OHS laws and should be called to account.

The question was asked by Independent Kerry Finch to Attorney-General Dr Vanessa Goodwin.

“Is the Government concerned about the rundown in staff for the WorkSafe program? Is the Government aware that there are only a reported 19 field inspectors, when it requires between 27 and 30 for the program to work efficiently? Does the Government plan to recruit more field inspectors for WorkSafe?”


Front page drug testing article is marketing Reply

An article last week touched briefly on the issue of the effect of synthetic drugs in the workplace in the context of drug and alcohol testing.  The Australian newspaper on 28 September 2015 contained a front page article (paywalled) about mining company concerns over synthetic drugs at work, however it is an article that deserves greater analysis before anyone considers this as part of an evidence base as it is creatively constructed and relies on statements from a toxicologist working for drug testing laboratory. More…

OHS is in sports but by another name 4

After writing a recent article about the relevance of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws to sporting clubs, I attended a sports medicine seminar to access a different perspective on workplace safety.

2015-09-21 18.43.15Having never played sports outside the obligatory high school activities, which in my high school also included snooker?!, the world of locker rooms and team sports is foreign.  But earlier this week I learnt that where OHS professionals talk about productivity, sportspeople speak of performance, and where factories address line speed, sports physicians talk of load management.  I also learnt that professional sportspeople are exempt from workers’ compensation. More…

FIFO mental health challenges the way we do business 4

cover of Final Report w signature for website(2)An article on the occupational health and safety (OHS) risks of Australia’s Fly In – Fly Out (FIFO) workers has been on this blog’s agenda for a long time but the final report into the mental health of FIFO workers released in June 2015 by the Western Australian government summarises many of the hazards. A close look at the recommendations illustrates many of the general problems of addressing mental health issues in workplaces. More…

Yoga and yoghurt – corporate wellbeing Reply

Professional organisations need to maintain personal contact between members and stakeholders even when social media allows for almost constant contact. Such events benefit from having thoughts challenged and recently one such event in Melbourne, Australia challenged its audience about psychological health and wellbeing.

A recent NSCA Foundation event heard from Andrew Douglas, one of the few workplace relations lawyers who can bridge the law and the real world.  He began by describing wellness or wellbeing in a fresh context.

“Wellbeing is that equilibrium that is achieved between challenge and resources.”

This perspective addresses business operations and personnel management as challenges – situations that arise that need controlling or managing.  This is a useful perspective as long as people feel up to the challenge and are not defeatist. More…

More care needed in discussing workplace mental health and mental illness 2

Writing about workplace mental health is a tricky task.  An article recently posted to Business News Western Australia shows how tricky it can be and how mental health can be misinterpreted as mental illness.

The headline, “Are you one of the 20% of workers that will experience a mental health issue?” clearly refers to workers but the first sentence of the article does not.  “Australian adults” are not all “workers”.

Out of the total population of around 24 million Australians, Wikipedia estimates the working-age population of Australia (15 – 64 years) at round 67% (16 million, approximately). If we apply these statistics to the headline, there are 3.2 million workers who “will experience a mental health issue”. But is this annually, over one’s working life or over a lifetime? The article does not say.

Not only are the statistics messy, so is the terminology. More…

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…