Workplace bullying report lost in the political frenzy 1

Earlier this year Victorian MP and Minister for Small Business, Adem Somyurek, was accused of bullying his Chief of Staff, Dimity Paul.  This week, Somyurek resigned from his Cabinet position but not without a press conference in which he stated that the issue was political payback and that his resignation is no admission of guilt.

As you can see from this very brief summary, party politics has infested this instance of workplace bullying, and to such an extent that the important and solid investigation report into the incident is being missed.  The reports are publicly available and deserve to be carefully considered rather than relying on some of the current media coverage. 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…

Happiness with HILDA 1

Cover of HILDA statreport_2015The Age newspaper’s front cover for 15 July 2015 was dominated by an article about happiness.  The article is worth reading as it is built upon statistics from the long-term HILDA survey (Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia) that is used by many Australian researchers but, significantly, HILDA makes no reference to happiness.  Various elements in the article relate to the workplace and work activity generally but a couple are of direct relevance to occupational health and safety.

“4. Be a workaholic

Work-life balance is overrated, the survey suggests. In fact, the more people work the better their health is. Employees can work more than 51 hours in paid work and 81 hours of total work (that’s more than 11 hours a day) without any detrimental effect on their wellbeing, according to the report.”

More…

Annual Reports need OHS engagement 1

Successful safety management relies on communication. Sometimes this is informal, as in prestart meetings or toolbox talks; sometimes it is formal, such as with Annual Reports and legacy documents. It is important for occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals to understand how to communicate in these two formats and to address different audiences and readerships.

The latest Australasian Reporting Awards were handed out last week with the Civil Aircraft Safety Authority garnering the Work Health and Safety Reporting Award for 2015. Safe Work Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, Michelle Baxter, said, about the award:

“By including high quality work health and safety information in your annual report, you can establish your organisation as a leader in work health and safety, one in which work health and safety is not an ‘add on’, but integrated into business decisions and processes.”

In terms of Annual Reports, the OHS professional needs to be involved early in the report writing process rather than, as seems to happen most of the time, leaving it to the company secretary or the Communications unit.  Annual reports need a consistent More…

Is OHS an invisible science? Reply

On 1 June 2015 Australia’s Radio National broadcast a discussion about the future of work, in support of a Vivid Festival conference. Listening to the discussion through the prism of occupational health and safety (OHS) is an interesting experience as work/life balance is promoted as empowering the individual but, as we know in OHS, individuals often sacrifice their safety for income or deadlines or project demands, contrary to their legislative obligations. The workplace flexibility that many people seek allows the individual to manage the workload and develop or design the working environment. In other terms they establish an unregulated workplace. So what influence will OHS have in these new and emerging workplace configurations? Probably very little.

ABC’s Natasha Mitchell spoke with the curator of the conference Jess Scully. The context seems to be workplace flexibility, primarily, in the creative industries but not exclusively. Mitchell says that this increased flexibility can be seen in an increase in short-term contracts, job insecurity and “inadequate conditions” to which can be added unsafe work environments. More…

Don’t mention workplace bullying 2

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews is involved in a, currently minor, political drama after he decided to stand down his Small Business Minister, Adem Somyurek, after allegations of workplace bullying. The drama is in its early days but some of the decisions and media comments are worthy of analysis, particularly as Premier Andrews seems to be avoiding using the term, workplace bullying.

The facts seem to be that the  Minister’s Chief of Staff, Dimity Paul, complained to the Premier about Somyurek’s “intimidating, aggressive and threatening” behaviour. The Premier stood the Minister down after a formal complaint was made to the Department of Premier and Cabinet which has generated an investigation.

This allegation has a lot of political connections as described in an article in The Age newspaper written by Farrah Tomazin, but there is little doubt that the allegation comes under the definition of workplace bullying as there have been mentions of a “pattern of behaviour” by the Minister. Tomazin wrote

“The alleged misconduct …. is said to have taken place over the past few months, and relates to a number of employees in his ministerial office…”

More…

Safe Work Australia drops the national OHS awards 3

Each Australian State conducts its own occupational health and safety (OHS) awards.  It has been a long-held tradition that the winners of these awards are entered into the national OHS awards conducted by Safe Work Australia.  No more.  The national awards have been quietly dropped.

Safe Work Australia has decided to end the national awards just over a year since the Minister for Employment, Senator Eric Abetz, stated:

“I am delighted to see individuals, small businesses and large organisations finding solutions to make their workplaces safer….

“Their commitment and passion has made a difference in the community and ensured safer workplaces leading to more people getting home safely to their families.

“The leadership and innovation of people and organisations like those celebrated at the Awards that not only helps to reduce the number of workplace deaths and injuries but also helps to create a positive workplace culture.”

The 2014 media release went on to state:

“The Safe Work Australia Awards showcase the best workplace safety solutions, innovations and systems across our nation and are a celebration of what can be achieved to reduce workplace incidents and deaths.”

More…

Standing desks distract from systemic analysis 3

The media’s focus on standing desks continues in Australia with the PM radio program on 7 May 15 stating:

“If you thought those standing desks, and even the newer treadmill desks, were a fad, think again.”

This compounds the continuing distraction from organisational causes to individual adaptability and encourages short-term thinking on occupational health and safety (OHS) issues.

The radio program built a report around some very useful research data released by the Heart Foundation which, amongst other findings, stated:

“More than one in two Australian workers reported that they do not do enough physical activity to be healthy. In fact, one in four Australian workers does very little or no physical activity at all. The most common reasons Australian workers are not physical active is due to lack of time, a lack of enjoyment when doing physical activity or simply would prefer to do other things than undertaking physical activity.”

Sedentary behaviour is an acknowledged risk factor in various chronic diseases and the Heart Foundation should be commended for providing further evidence.  But there is no mention of standing desks in the Foundation’s media release or supplementary information. More…

Standing workstations – useful, fad or salesmanship? 7

Over the last week Australian media has been reporting on office workers using standing workstations. Given sedentary working has been shown to have negative health effects, standing seems sensible as it increases mobility but is it enough to stand?  Or is this recent media attention just another example of shallow writing on occupational health and safety matters, or even media manipulation?

An article in the Canberra Times (which appeared in other Fairfax publications around 17 April 2015) states that:

“…health and ergonomics experts say the benefits to overall health for standing-up workers is irrefutable..”

and

“Some also believe it makes workers more productive…”

The article then quotes the head of office supplies and furniture from an office furniture retailer, Jim Berndells of Officeworks.  Its next expert is another retailer of furniture, Office Workstations and its managing director Jovan Vucetic.  The attention granted to these retailers along with a mention of the price of a standing workstation and the companies that Vucetic has supplied, seems to imply that the article is less about OHS than about product information.

(It may be relevant that Vucetic’s LinkedIn profile shows that in 2012 he was running an Ebay company and that he continues to operate JOVAN Imedia, which he describes as an “affiliate marketing business”, alongside his workstations business.) More…

Podcast of interview on OHS reviews 3

The recent article into the review of SafeWorkSA caught the attention of the Your Rights at Night radio program and led to an interview on 9 April 2015.  The podcast of that interview is now available online.

Interviews are odd experiences, particularly when they are over the phone.  Although there is a reason someone wants to talk with you, you usually do not know the questions beforehand.

For the interview above, I was in the bedroom, away from noises, with printed blog articles, media releases and OHS statistics across the pillows.  I thought the spread of information was important to have at hand to make sure the information I provided was accurate but one can still get caught out when the pace of the interview has settled. The last question asked in the interview could have been answered better.  Neither of the reviews announced have a fixed end date, regardless of what I said, in fact you can hear the shuffling of papers while I looked for the SA government’s media release. Oh well.

Kevin Jones