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…

The exploitation of happiness 2

As the Australian Government analyses the productivity of the workplace it is vital that that analysis reflects the modern workplace and management practice. At the moment Australian workplaces are awash with training programs focusing on resilience and happiness, implying that each individual can change and improve a workplace culture but there has always been an undercurrent of manipulation to these courses and seminars.  A new book by William Davies provides a fresh perspective that, rightly, questions the motives behind this modern trend and provides an important historical context. (For those who can’t purchase the book but want to know more, look at this series of articles)

Davies’s book,  “The Happiness Industry – How the Government and Big Business Sold Us well-Being”“, is a big picture look at the economics and politics of happiness but has direct relevance to the workplace and occupational health and safety (OHS) as well-being and mental health has become increasingly influential in managing workers and their safety. Davies writes that since the 1990s: More…

The ripple effect of workplace suicides 5

Suicide is a reality in many workplaces.  Work may exacerbate the stresses and psychological conditions leading to people thinking of suicide and it can create those stresses.  Most workers at risk of suicide show signs of distress, just as all workplaces show signs like near misses, but these signs are often not recognised. Mates in Construction is one program that teaches the recognition of these signs after an increasing suicide rate but Australian farmers are also killing themselves.  This reality has generated The Ripple Effect program to, initially, raise awareness of the risks and to de-stigmatise suicide and psychological issues. More…

“Job Quality” progresses OHS thinking 1

On housing affordability this week, Australia’s Treasurer, Joe Hockey, suggested a solution would be to get a “good job”. This occurred a month or so after the publication of a terrific book (that Hockey obviously has yet to read) called “Job Quality in Australia“, edited by Angela Knox and Chris Warhurst for Federation Press. The editors write about the importance of job quality which “…affects attitudes, behaviour and outcomes at the individual, organisational and national level” (page 1) and job quality’s political context:

“While the current Abbott government is primarily concerned with improving Australia’s macro-economic position, such a position is unlikely to be achieved and sustained without a policy agenda focusing on job quality.” (page 2)

Significantly for this blog’s readership, the book has a chapter, written by Michael Quinlan and Philip Bohle, on the impact of organisation on workplace health, safety and wellbeing. More…

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…

Everyone wants a quick fix – OHS is no different 2

One of the professional disciplines that has had the biggest impact on occupational health and safety (OHS) management in Australia has been sociology but that influence seems to be waning as it fails to compete with the managerial imperative of short-termism and the quick fix.

This demand for a quick fix is partly a result of the increased sensitivity to reputational damage of both the organisation and the executive. This can be seen by the increasing attention to apparent solutions to safety problems of the individual worker, for instance, resilience training which is primarily about the individual toughening up.  Neuroplasticity has entered OHS by saying that the individual can reconfigure their brain to, somehow, work more safely. Of course, the ultimate short-term solution to most workplace problems has existed for years  – sack the worker.

All of this denies the organisational influence on workers, managers and executives because organisational change is hard and it takes time, both are challenges that do not fit with modern expectations of business.

One of the clearest examples of the inability or unwillingness of executives to improve OHS through organisational change is the management of workplace bullyingMore…

Network Rail’s wellbeing program Reply

At the recent Safety Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur, there were several presentation illustrating the importance and the application of wellbeing programs as part of a broad health and safety strategy.  One speaker was Chris Jones, the Health and Wellness Strategy Head for Network Rail.

Chris started a wellness strategy in Network Rail from scratch less than three years ago.  Significantly an integral part of the strategy was to measure the effect of the strategy, a practice that should be an automatic inclusion with any contracts and the introduction of a new strategy.

SafetyAtWorkBlog was invited to attend and speak at the summit and had the chance to ask Chris Jones about some of the issues raised in his presentation. More…

Master guide or handbook 4

In 2012, SafetyAtWorkBlog reviewed the first edition of the Australian Master Work Health and Safety Guide. CCH Wolters Kluwer has released its second edition and, sadly, it repeats many of the criticisms in the 2012 review.

The title of Australian Master Work Health and Safety Guide (2nd ed) seems inaccurate if one considers a book with “master ” in its title to be a “masterwork”. This is not a masterwork and the publishers have emphasised to SafetyAtWorkBlog that the book was never intended to be.  The book is intended to be a brief outline of the most important contemporary occupational health and safety (OHS) issues in Australia and to provide practical advice, checklists and templates.  In fact, the word that should be focussed on in the title is “guide”.

The publishers advised that “master” is in the title to indicate it is part of its “Master Series“, a “brilliant” series described as

“Australia’s premium range of professional books, widely accepted as the leaders in their fields.”

SafetyAtWorkBlog looked at a couple of chapters to assess the quality of the content.  As workplace bullying is such a contentious issue. the Bullying and Violence chapter was a focus. There were a surprising number of omissions in this chapter. More…

Safety Asia Summit 2015 Reply

Safety Summit Asia-KL-9th12Mar2015I have been invited to speak at the Safety Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur in March 2015. My presentation will focus on safety communications.  My blurb in the conference program lists the following points:

  • “Ways of Seeing” – the importance of John Berger’s work
  •  The importance of language in the reframing of Safety
  • Writing about safety as a professional development tool
  • Safety leadership and classical literature
  • Embracing the importance of stories

I am in the midst of finalising my presentation and would welcome any input or stories from SafetyAtWorkBlog readers to assist me.  Use the link below to contact me directly.

Kevin Jones

Productivity Commission looks at workplace bullying – not really 1

The Australian Government has announced an inquiry into workplace relations through the Productivity Commission (PC). The most obvious occupational health and safety (OHS) element of this inquiry relates to workplace bullying which is discussed in the fourth of five issues papers released in January 2015. However the purposeful separation of workplace bullying actions through the Fair Work Commission (FWC) from actions in other sectors, such as OHS regulators, limits the potential impact of the inquiry on this issue.

The PC issues paper acknowledges the lack of the anticipated avalanche of anti-bullying applications and accepts that the structure of the FWC process may be partially responsible.  This lack of applications, an issue discussed elsewhere in SafetyAtWorkBlog, deserves further research and analysis.  The FWC structure only allows applications from workers currently employed in the workplace about which they are complaining.  It can be argued that the inability of the FWC to award financial compensation is an equal deterrent.  If this is the case (and, as far as can be determined, this aspect has not been investigated) the motivation of anti-bullying applicants to FWC and OHS regulators may involve natural justice AND compensation. The role of money in bullying complaints and applications has been a taboo subject in the past but deserves some analysis, even though it may be very uncomfortable. More…