Poor editing could increase confusion on workplace bullying Reply

One of the occupational health and safety (OHS) issues that does not “travel” well across international borders is workplace bullying.  Each country usually has its own laws (if at all).  Each operates in a different culture and each has a different definition of what constitutes workplace bullying.  Those who communicate and publish information on this hazard need to be sure that an article is relevant to its readership or at least clearly indicate the article’s overseas origin.

On 28 May 2014 the Australian Financial Review (AFR) published a US article on workplace bullying that was first published in  the Washington Post in March 2014 that purports to discuss workplace bullying but, to the Australian readership, the article describes bad management  practices and poor work behaviour, NOT workplace bullying. More…

Curious decisions on WorkSafe Victoria may have long-term consequences 3

Several weeks ago there was a stir in the OHS sector in Victoria, Australia.  WorkSafe was to disappear.  Quickly the WorkSafe executives clarified that the organisation would continue to exist but that the trading name of “WorkSafe” would go.  Unions and others were suspicious as such a decision was unexpected, even by WorkSafe it appears, and it occurred at a time of organisational restructuring.  Dropping the WorkSafe “brand” is a mistake but it will still disappear from Victoria.

WorkSafe became a trading name of the Victorian Workcover Authority (VWA) several decades ago.  There were two parts to the VWA – workers compensation, WorkCare and workplace safety, WorkSafe.  The simplicity of the branding is obvious and cleverly differentiated the two arms of VWA and the two very different philosophies and ideologies.  Victoria had been given a political hammering over the operation of its workers compensation scheme but WorkSafe became one of the strongest brands in the State.  Recognition was extremely high, so high that Tasmania changed the name of its Workplace Standards to WorkSafe, Northern Territory has WorkSafeNT,  and the new approach to OHS in New Zealand has created a regulator called WorkSafe NZ.  So why change?

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Media coverage on workplace bullying needs more depth and analysis 2

The Australian media has given workplace bullying the front page, probably because it is a slow news period and there have been no major disasters this Christmas period. However the coverage is of the new rules and opportunities for assistance offered by changes to the Fair Work Act that commence on 1 January 2014, rather than about prevention.

Most of the comments from the business groups in the article by The Age newspaper will be familiar from the last few months. Generally they object to what they see as red tape and increased regulation. Some also believe that workplace bullying should be handled through human resources rather than as an occupational health and safety (OHS) matter.

Red tape and unnecessary bureaucracy is a legitimate concern but one that, in large part, the business sector has allowed to happen. As discussed previously, much of the red tape originates from the risk management strategy of business where, when an issue or hazard cannot be eliminated or it is too difficult to try, insurance or liability protection is obtained. As others have said, too often the risk management of safety is corrupted to become risk management of legal issues. More…

Moral conflicts in store for Australian politicians and bureaucrats 1

iStock_000016528694XSmall2014 is going to present tough challenges to Australia’s politicians and corporate leaders.  The Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program, in particular, is going to illustrate and perhaps generate ideological conflict.

The Home Insulation Program (HIP) was established quickly to address a looming economic crisis.  Politicians and business leaders wanted Australia to avoid the global recession and they needed creative solutions.  Various importance governance and safety elements appear to have been sacrificed to achieve the economic ends.  In 2014, the politicians of the time and bureaucrats will be grilled over why they made these decisions.  Various inquiries have already identified that these decisions contributed to the deaths of four young workers.  In 2014, these decision- and policy-makers will be held to account for the fatal consequences of their economic decisions.

There has long been a conflict between the pursuit of profit and the pursuit of safe working conditions.  The Royal Commission, and the surrounding debate, is likely to place this conflict squarely in the highest levels of Australia’s government and public service.  Below are some of the issues that the Australian government and business sector are likely to face in 2014. More…

Truth, justice and the safe way 7

Many years ago the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) won a WorkSafe Victoria award for a colouring in book.  From memory the book depicted construction work so that children could understand what their parents do while the kids are at school.  Since that time many companies have produced safety calendars from children’s drawings and train companies have created safety jingles and animated videos about decapitation.  On 28 October WorkSafeACT launched a comic book about Hazardman.

Dr Rob Long rips the campaign to shreds in a blog article,concluding with

“It is amazing that the Regulator can impose this indoctrination campaign on the school system and now we learn that Safe Work Australia is going to roll it out throughout Australia. Fantastic, what a wonderful way to prepare our children and inoculate them against the realities of risk.” More…

First aid marketing exercise requires analysis 4

It is common to use a self-commissioned survey to market one’s services but sometimes the evidence does not support some of the marketing statements. The latest survey by St John Ambulance is a good example of this.

According to St John Ambulance’s media release on 13 March 2013:

“Only 13 per cent of Australian workplaces know how to keep their employees safe according to new research released … by … St John Ambulance Australia.”

Cover of First aid in the workplace - code 2012This is reworded in the report (page 2) as

“…only 13% of Australian businesses are compliant with the new [First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice]’s requirements…”

The survey sample does not support the generalisations above. More…

Risks of taking bullying or harassment directly to the Courts 10

Seeking justice through the court system is everyone’s right but sometimes court action is more newsworthy than normal and sometimes the media is used in conjunction with legal actions.  Either way, any court action, particularly on personal matters such as sexual harassment or workplace bullying will be a stressful activity. The workplace safety context of a recent political scandal in Australia involving the Speaker of the House of Representatives  Peter Slipper, and an employee, James Ashby, have not been discussed.  A summary of, or commentary on, the Ashby/Slipper scandal can be found HERE.

The judgement by Justice Steven Rares in the December 2012 legal proceedings of Ashby v Commonwealth of Australia (No 4) [2012] FCA 1411, provides a salient lesson for those considering taking legal action over a work-related issue, such as sexual harassment, workplace bullying or other psychosocial matter.

Ashby-Slipper and OHS

The Ashby-Slipper sexual harassment proceedings have a legitimate OHS context, reminiscent of the 2009 political scandal involving Godwin Grech. Although occupational health and safety was not overtly stated by Justice Rares it is briefly discussed in the judgement. It is useful to consider these matters in a similar context to recent issues on workplace bullying. More…

2012 in review – SafetyAtWorkBlog 2

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 150,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Safety and productivity links at risk from ill-informed ridicule and media beat-up 7

Yesterday Australia’s Fairfax Media reported on a “policy” supposedly being applied in the Western Australia resources sector by Chevron Australia that requires workers to stand, rather than sit, for the purposes of increasing productivity.  The initiative has been roundly ridiculed by various political and social commentators, including the Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten. However few have mentioned that the actions by the “policy” may be in line with recent OHS guidance issued by an Australian government safety authority, Comcare, or that the Victorian Government has granted $A600,000 for research into the use of standing workstations.

SafetyAtWorkBlog has been informed that Chevron has had no role in the production of the “leaked memo” and that this memo is likely to be notes and verbal advice provided at a low-level on a worksite and even simply as part of a regular toolbox meeting.  Fairfax Media is unfairly linking two disparate issues, dragging in Chevron who is not involved with the information and potential damaging valid safety information through unjustified ridicule. More…

One quad bike manufacturer seizes the day on safety 1

Since the quad bike safety roundtable a couple of months ago, the safety debate about quad bikes has been quiet however, the issue has lost little of its topicality.  On 5 December The Weekly Times again devoted its front page, and editorial, to quad bike safety.

The newsworthiness stems from quad bike manufacturer, CFMoto offering

“…the Quadbar device through its dealership across Australia, conceding crush protection for ATVs was “inevitable”.” (link added)

This is a noticeable break from the other motorcycle manufacturers represented in Australia by the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI).  Contrary to the FCAI comments in the article, CFMoto is not a backyard manufacturer.  According to its website profile:

“CFMoto’s ATV and UTV range has been the second largest selling throughout much of Europe for the reporting period between the January ’08 and June ’10. And since arriving in Australia has become the fastest growing ATV brand in Australia!” More…