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…

Building a better future but maybe not a safer one Reply

Cover of ACTU Blueprint 2015The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) has a strong commitment to safe and healthy workplaces in Australia and would likely assert that nothing is more important than the safety of workers. However the latest submission to government on economic and social reform, “Building a Better Future – a Strong Economy for All” (not yet available online), has missed the chance to bring occupational health and safety (OHS) into the current policy debate on economic and productivity reforms. 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…

Conversation about work-related grief Reply

Recently SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to spend some time with Bette Phillips-Campbell, the Manager of GriefWork, a unit of the Creative Ministries Network in Melbourne.  GriefWork provides a range of support services to families of those who have died at work or due to work factors.

The conversation touches on issues including

  • how GriefWork operates and is funded,
  • work-related suicide,
  • worker memorials,
  • the application of restorative justice in the workplace context,
  • how a workplace death affects company executives,

The interview can be accessed at Bette Phillips Interview 2015

If you want more information about GriefWork or how you may be able to help this service, please contact Bette on (61) 03 9692 9427 or by email.

Kevin Jones

Another $11billion mental health estimate Reply

Cover of beyondblue_workplaceroi_finalreport_may-2014After reading this morning’s article on mental health costings, a vigilant reader has suggested an alternative source for the $A11 billion cost figure.  It is also a report about which this blog raised serious questions when the report was released in May 2014. The “new” report seems to confirm the concerns in this morning’s article over needing to dig to find the original data sources of workplace hazards. More…

Inexactitudes could lead to OHS myths 2

Consulting firm Deloittes recently announced the merging of its occupational health and safety (OHS) and sustainability sectors in order to provide better customer services.  In the article Deloittes says about the importance of workplace mental health:

“Given that one in six working age Australians live with mental illness including depression, that is costing Australian businesses at least $11 billion dollars each year, this is a growing area“.

But the source of this statement is unclear and this lack of clarity may be contributing to some of the inexactitudes in the mental health/wellbeing debate. More…

The exploitation of happiness 4

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 2

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…

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…