A good book of safety solutions case studies Reply

Australia has many safety awards programs.  SafetyAtWorkBlog has reported on some of the practical solutions from the awards and lamented how the prominence of such solutions fades quickly as the mainstream media ignores them.  The blog has also shown examples of a hard copy solutions database that existed in Victoria and Australia for a couple of decades.

The European Union’s Agency for Safety and Health at Work has recently released, online, a publication in support of its risk assessment campaign that shows how safety solutions can be presented and shared without worrying about commercial-in-confidence or intellectual property.

Jukka Takala, Director of EU-OSHA, says in his foreword

“This report supports the campaign by providing information on successful interventions in the workplace illustrating how the hazards identified after a risk assessment can be eliminated or controlled. The report is aimed at those who are responsible for carrying out risk assessments in the workplace and for preparing decisions on risk elimination or control measures.”

The report, “Assessment, elimination and substantial reduction of occupational risks“, also provides a list of some very useful elements for preventative safety

“The employer shall implement the measures (necessary for the safety and health protection of workers) on the basis of the following general principles of prevention:

(a) avoiding risks;
(b) evaluating the risks which cannot be avoided;
(c) combating the risks at source;
(d) adapting the work to the individual;
(e) adapting to technical progress;
(f) replacing the dangerous by the non-dangerous or the less dangerous;
(g) developing a coherent overall prevention policy;
(h) giving collective protective measures priority over individual protective measures;
(i) giving appropriate instructions to the workers”

The report is very useful in its clarification of the role and potential benefits of risk assessment.  Each solution is described, in detail, as a case study and the report includes guarding issues, manual handling and psychosocial hazards.  On the latter category, here is the summary for psychosocial hazards in hospitals

“Stress in hospitals – assessment of psychosocial and physical risks

Hospital work is known to be physically and psychologically demanding.  A pilot project was therefore set up in a hospital with 470 employees to assess workplace risks and organisational aspects.  The workers were exposed to physical strain, risks from chemical and biological agents and psychosocial strain.  They were also stressed by administrative tasks. After the assessment the results were analysed, action plans drawn up and measures implemented.  Risk assessment became a standard part of quality and health management systems, including training.”

One of the particularly interesting element in this program was that one of the first sources of information it used was quality management documentation.  Quality management is one of the most under-utilised sources of OHS and strategic planning data.  As long as quality managers do not perceive quality as a business element above that of safety, environment or any other, as long as they accept that each element is of equal importance in integration of management system, the quality data will be indispensable.

The quality data is followed up by interviews with middle- or line managers, questionnaires and observations.

Of all of the control measures, this organisational change was very clever:

“The administrative tasks, in particular, were perceived by the nurses to be distracting and onerous.  They felt that paperwork kept them away from important care work.  Consequently, administrative tasks were delegated to the night shifts, where there was more time to devote to them as the amount of care work fell at night.”

This looked at workload in a peak/off-peak context that fits with the natural rhythm of the clients.  The paperwork night-shift may be a suitable solution for other workplaces and the night-shift workers may have increased productivity due to the lack of distractions.

EU-OSHA keeps producing reports and publications that call out for a broader readership than Europe and this is a great example.

Kevin Jones

OHS for volunteers is still not working Reply

Most Australian States’s OHS laws have encompassed workplace risks fro those who enter the enter the workplace and for volunteers.  The issue came up again with the recent review process on model OHS laws.  However a recent national survey by Volunteering Australia found that

“30% of [over 1400 volunteer] organisations surveyed have not been able to access adequate information about the protection of volunteers under occupational health and safety legislation.

Although individual volunteers overwhelmingly see OHS resources as having been positive.

“467 (26%) volunteers reported that OHS had a positive impact on them in the past 12 months, while only 130 (7%) reported that it had a negative impact.”

The positive position was slightly lower than the 2008 survey results (30%)

Volunteering Australia should be applauded for considering OHS in its survey.  Many organisations, particularly community organisations, are not so upfront on the issue.

Volunteering Australia is aware of the national OHS model review and are preparing for the additional overt relevance of volunteers in OHS law, but Volunteering Australia tells SafetyAtWorkBlog that they chose not to make a submission on the OHS model laws.

Kevin Jones

Contradictions on endosulfan in fish hatchery Reply

Earlier in 2009, SafetyAtWorkBlog reported on concerns over a possible cancer cluster near a fish hatchery in Queensland.

The final report of the Queensland Government’s inquiry, Noosa Fish Health Investigation Taskforce, is not due until February 2010 but the Federal Government’s Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority has released a statement entitled “Endosulfan Ruled out as a Potential Cause of Noosa Fish Health Issues”.  In that article APVMA states

“The Noosa Fish Health Investigation Taskforce has at this point eliminated endosulfan as a potential cause of deaths and deformities at a commercial fish hatchery at Noosa in the six events being investigated.  Endosulfan was not used by the neighbouring macadamia property during the period under investigation.  There was also some suggestion that because the commercial hatchery uses river water and fish from the river in its operations, pesticides in the Noosa River may have been involved in the incidents reported.  However, environmental monitoring of water from the Noosa River and its feeder lakes has not indicated that endosulfan is present at concentrations that would be harmful to aquatic life.”

The ABC reports on 7 December 2009 that

“…aquaculture veterinarian Associate Professor Matt Landos says there is new evidence that endosulphan may be a factor.

“The early reports from the task force did not identify endosulphan in any residue testing and as such it was considered a less likely potential cause,” he said.  “However, recent testing has identified the break-down product of endosulphan in the middle of Lake Cootharaba – in the middle of the Noosa system.”

Matt Landos is a member of the Queensland Government’s taskforce.

Kevin Jones

Workplace skin cancer risk remains high Reply

The July 2004 edition of SafetyATWORK magazine contained an interview with Sam Holt the CEO of Australian company Skin Patrol.  The fascinating service of Skin Patrol was that they travelled the outback of Australia with a mobile skin cancer testing unit.  That is a big area to cover but with the increasing incidence of skin cancer and the acceptance of ultraviolet exposure as an OHS problem, the service seemed timely.

(The interview is available HERE)

SafetyAtWorkBlog was contacted by Skin Patrol in early December 2009 as it was releasing the findings of a survey of 1,000 outdoor workers.  Its survey has these key findings:

  • 2.5 times the national reported incidence of malignant melanoma
  • One in 10 patients had a lesion highly suspicious of skin cancer
  • 26% of patients were diagnosed with moderate to severe sun damage
  • 70% of patients diagnosed with a lesion suspicious of skin cancer were aged 40 years or greater
  • Over 90% of workers who attended the Skin Patrol clinic because they were worried about a particular spot or the condition of their skin had not had their skin checked in the past 12 months prior to the onsite clinic.

The company’s media release also states:

“The incidence of melanoma for all Australians currently sits at 46 in 100,000, however for those that work outdoors that figure jumps to 100 in 100,000.”

The risks from exposure to ultraviolet are well established and our understanding of the risks have changed considerably within one generation.  The Australian culture has changed to one of sun-worshipping to one where the wearing of hats is enforced at school, hard hats have wide brim attachments, and outdoor work is undertaken in long pants and long-sleeved shirts.  Occupational control measures have been introduced.

Of course, particularly in the construction industry, principle contractors still struggle in a getting compliance with the UV-protection policies but that’s the case for many OHS policies.

Skin cancer risks through high UV exposure are well-established OHS Issues but the reality still does not mean that controlling the hazard is easy to manage.  Culturally we still want to have a tanned complexion even if it is sprayed on.  Tanned skin is still synonymous with good health even though the medical evidence differs.

Skin cancer risks in the workplace are simply another of those workplace hazards that are ahead of the non-workplace culture and that safety professionals need to manage.  The attraction with this hazard is that there is no disputing the evidence.

Kevin Jones

Australian OHS statistics just released 1

Safe Work Australia has released a couple more of its annual statistical reports about workplace injuries and fatalities.

The report that covers 2006/07 ( Work-Related Traumatic Injury Fatalities, Australia 2006-07) included this information in the Summary of Findings

“[In 2006–07]…a total of 453 work-related traumatic injury fatalities in Australia during 2006–07.   In 2006–07, just over half (237) of all work-related injury fatalities resulted from road crashes.

Of the 453 people who died of work-related injuries, 295 (65%) died of injuries sustained while working, …a 9% increase over the previous financial year.

In addition to the Working fatalities; 93 workers died from an injury sustained while travelling to or from work … and 65 people died of injuries received as a result of someone else’s work activity.”

There was also a report on notifiable incidents which covers 2008/09.  There are disparities in these statistics so it is important to read the reports and the research limitations, by the summary includes the following:

“In 2008–09 there were 177 notified work related fatalities — 151 workers and 26 bystanders.

  • Most fatalities were of men — 158 in total. There were 17 fatalities of women (including 11 bystanders) and sex was unknown for 2 other fatalities.
  • Four industries accounted for seven out of every ten notified work-related fatalities — 26% of fatalities occurred at a workplace primarily engaged in Agriculture, forestry & fishing; 18% in Construction; 15% in Transport & storage; and 9% in Mining.
  • The most common causes of the fatalities were Vehicle accidents (54 fatalities); Being hit by moving objects (34 fatalities); Falls from a height (20 fatalities); Being hit by falling objects (16 fatalities); and Drowning/immersion (14 fatalities).”

This report also includes details of “bystander fatalities” which are defined as “deaths of members of the public, such as passers-by or visitors to workplaces — including children — who die as a consequence of another person’s work activity.”  The report provides a good amount of details on these, and other, fatalities:

There were 26 bystander fatalities notified in 2008–09. These included:

  • 9 bystander fatalities caused by vehicle accidents, of these 6 occurred when cars and trucks collided.
  • 6 bystander deaths due to drowning. Of these, 3 occurred while white-water rafting and 2 occurred while snorkelling or diving.
  • 4 bystander deaths that occurred when the person was hit by a vehicle, of these, 2 deaths occurred while the vehicle was reversing.

Kevin Jones

Tory leader calls for a “forensic examination” of health and safety culture 4

David Cameron, the leader of England’s Conservative Party, has spoken about the health and safety culture that he says is restricting personal and business options in England.

In the full speech, Cameron clearly outlines an ideological agenda but it is a mistake to see this as an attack on the OHS regulator.  Below is an edited summary of the most relevant bits of his speech:

“In almost every area, the Conservative Party aims to remove the obstacles that prevent people from making their own decisions.

That’s why we plan a radical redistribution of power, giving control over education, housing and policing to local people.

…there is a growing sense that too many areas of our life are governed by petty rules, regulations and tick box bureaucracy that flies in the face of common sense, undermines discretion and prevents us from getting on with our lives.

We see it in our police force,… our prisons, …our schools, [and] our hospitals

[the the over-the-top health and safety culture] is… infuriating. It … stifles judgement and discretion……is a straitjacket on personal initiative and responsibility……and is a big barrier to the creation of the big society.

…something has gone seriously wrong with the spirit of health and safety in the past decade.

…it is clear that what began as a noble intention to protect people from harm has mutated into a stultifying blanket of bureaucracy, suspicion and fear that has saturated our country…

How has this over-the-top health and safety culture become embedded in our national way of life? [emphasis added]

  • [European] bureaucratic rules
  • The Labour Government

But the biggest cause of this excessive health and safety culture is the way these rules have been interpreted and used.

What is more the problem is the perception we have allowed to develop that in Britain today, behind every accident there is someone who is personally culpable……someone who must pay.

[It is encouraged by]

  • adverts on television
  • the commercialising of lawyers’ incentives to generate litigation
  • the rising premiums and concerns of the insurance industry.
  • high-profile claims and pay-outs.

This has all helped to create a legal hypersensitivity to risk, accident and injury. And this has had a direct knock-on effect on the health and safety culture.

So it is not just the regulations from Brussels, or even the distrustful, interfering government that has created this culture, or the insurance industry, ……it is that everyone’s so worried about being sued that they invent lots of their own rules on top of the regulations that already exist.

… perhaps the most damaging consequences of this excessive health and safety culture have occurred in our society.

… the health and safety culture actively undermines responsibility.

CONSERVATIVE APPROACH

First, establish clear and specific principles about when health and safety legislation is appropriate, and when it is not, so we can evaluate whether existing or future legislation is necessary.

Second, we will propose practical changes in the law to both help bring an end to the culture of excessive litigation while at the same time giving legal safeguards to those who need them most.

HEALTH AND SAFETY CHANGES

there are three particular scenarios where this is the case.

The first is when consumers have a lack of information, or are unable to understand technical information, about a product or a service they are purchasing.

The second situation in which official action on health and safety is appropriate is where there is an imbalance of power.

The third situation in which there is a case for health and safety oversight is when someone might have a clear motive – normally profit – to put someone else in danger.

That’s because keeping people safe is often more expensive than exposing them to risk.

[REVIEW]

I have asked Lord Young to lead an extensive review on this subject for the Conservative Party. He has a track record of deregulation and cutting bureaucracy. He also has experience in the legal profession and will judge these issues with the care and attention they deserve. And he will look at everything from the working of the Health and Safety Executive, to the nature of our health and safety laws, litigation and the insurance industry.

There are some specific questions I have asked David Young to investigate urgently.

The first question is: how can we best protect what are effectively ‘Good Samaritans’?

In Australia, concern about the effect of increasing payouts for medical negligence led to a full review of civil liability.  Its final report concluded that when an individual is acting in good faith – as a Good Samaritan – and takes reasonable actions to help someone, then they should not be found negligent.

Second, can we help alleviate some of health and safety oversight that currently burdens small, local and voluntary organisations?

Third, do we need a Civil Liability Act?

I know the over-the-top health and safety culture that has grown in our country in recent years provokes a lot of understandable anger.  But anger itself is not solution.  Instead we need a forensic examination of what has gone wrong and the steps we need to take to put it right.”

Cameron’s speech has some valid points even if the ideological path that he has followed to get here may be unpalatable.

What separates this from a Jeremy Clarkson rant is that he is not targeting any one particular bureaucracy or social group.  He acknowledges that there are a range of social factors that have, over time, created what he believes is an “over-the-top health and safety culture”.   Cameron may have chosen extremes to illustrate his points but most OHS professionals would not be averse to a review of OHS laws particularly if such a review included other social structures that make their lives difficult but over which they have no influence.

Along the way, the chance for the political boot up the jaxy of the regulators and the unions, and those dreadful Europeans, will be irresistable for the Conservatives, but if planned for occupational health and safety may salvage some useful tools.

It must be remembered that the Conservatives are not in power in England but even from here in Australia, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown looks like a dead man walking.

Some commentators have already responded to the “outrageous” suggestions in Cameron’s speech.  More union response similar to this from Grahame Smith, General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress, can be expected.

“The families of the tens of thousands of workers who have been killed and maimed at work will find these comments deeply offensive. David Cameron has sent a chilling message to the working people in the UK that any future Conservative Government will attack the health and safety laws that trade unions have spent decades fighting for.

“This is not about draconian legislation. This is about the failure, or unwillingness, of employers, community groups and others to grasp the very basics of our health and safety system.

“We have witnessed what poor regulation has done for our finance sector and the economy. We do not want to see this attack on health and safety legislation having a similar catastrophic effect on human lives. Our economy will recover. Individuals killed at work and their families never recover from the consequence of poor health and safety regulation.

“We would say to David Cameron if you want to learn about the true consequences of health and safety failures read Hazards Magazine and come to Scotland and meet families who have lost loved ones due to health and safety failures by employers. Don’t subscribe to the trivial nonsense which is churned out by sections of the media.”

Smith is correct to remind Cameron to not rely on the media from which to develop policies, particularly the English print media.  Smith comparison of OHS legislation to financial market regulation is also valid.  Legislation should never be used as a blanket control mechanism but requires targeting.

Another union, Prospect, had this to say

On behalf of 1,650 HSE inspectors, scientists and other specialists, Prospect negotiator Mike Macdonald said: “There is a world of difference between petty bureaucracy enacted under the label of health and safety and HSE regulation designed to prevent deaths in the workplace.

“Measures aimed at preventing death and injury at work run the risk of being overshadowed by inappropriate obsessions by local authorities with minor issues that are often an excuse for withdrawing services on the grounds of cost. Given the importance of health and safety to the British economy and UK businesses we would welcome any changes that boost workers’ safety as well as business competitiveness.

“But confusing the two continues to perpetuate a negative image of health and safety regulation and masks the bigger picture: as the figures for 2007/08 show 32,810 employees were exposed to fatal and major injuries at work.”

If (when) the Conservatives come to power in England, Cameron and Lord Young will need to structure an inquiry that is inclusive and designed to be constructive.  Many people will approach such an inquiry with decades of suspicion and many memories of despair and disappointment. In many ways the laws require a rationalisation, not a revolution and this is what Cameron needs to “sell” as he gets ready for the next election, due in the first half of 2010.

Kevin Jones

Union continues pressure on asbestos as an urgent public health issue 2

Following on from Asbestos Awareness Week, an ABC media report on 3 December 2009 says that the Australian Workers Union is continuing to apply pressure to the Tasmanian Government and Cement Australia for testing of former employees  and local residents for exposure to asbestos.

An epidemiological study of former employees has been agreed to by the company and is being conducted by Monash University.  Dr Yossi Berger of the AWU wants the study to be expanded to residents.

The logic is sound, particularly in Railton where the entire community has been exposed to asbestos production and products over decades.   Asbestos should be considered as more than a work-related hazard.

The union position on this pernicious substance received recent support from Matt Peacock’s book “Killer Company” that brought to the public’s attention the issue of asbestos bags being used in carpet underlay over many years.  Peacock says that cases of mesothelioma that just appear without any direct link to asbestos-handling , use or manufacture could come from unsuspecting exposure to asbestos in seemingly innocuous sources, such as underlay.

The union must be fairly confident that the results of any study will provide incontrovertible proof of the spread of the asbestos hazard, so that there can be some “oomph” behind a broader public campaign.  As mentioned at a recent Asbestos seminar, the evidence may exist but it needs to be translated into a format that the national decision-makers will accept and cannot contest.  Then large-scale improvements are possible.

Kevin Jones

Safety awareness ≠ safety (always) 2

Workplace fatalities have markedly increased in Victoria over the last couple of months.  According to WorkSafe Victoria information nine people have died within the last two months bringing the current total to 27 for 2009.

Victoria has a high awareness of the need for safety in the workplace, principally due to the advertising campaigns of WorkSafe which began, in one form or another, in the 1980s when Andrew Lindberg was WorkSafe’s CEO.  But clearly awareness of the need for safety is not being translated into action.

WorkSafe Victoria has become alarmed at the recent surge in deaths and issued a media release asking for things to settle down.  John Merritt, executive director, has said

“With many industries now reaching their peak activity the risks are extreme as people rush to get work completed and begin to think about what Christmas, holidays and the New Year has to offer.

“The construction and manufacturing sectors are aiming to complete projects before a summer shutdown, while transport, warehousing and retailing are ramping-up to Christmas.

“With just a few weeks before Christmas and the spectre of nine deaths in two months behind us, employers and workers must lift their game and reject the urge to take shortcuts or become complacent.”

But there is nothing unique about this time of year as the same activities, the same work pressures exist each year at this time.  More analysis is required of why this October and November 2009 have been particularly bad.  This analysis needs to be much deeper than the market research and attitudinal studies that OHS regulators frequently undertake.

Dead men tell no tales but survivors do and perhaps it is time to investigate the circumstances of an incident in a way that is outside of the legal/prosecution motivation.  Everyone has a different perspective on a workplace incident and many are less than truthful or honest in order to not incriminate themselves or because a lawyer has advised against unsupervised cooperation.  Could it be possible to offer a special consideration to the witnesses of an incident, prior to the Court experience, so as to encourage accurate data of an incident that can then be issued as a safety alert?

The media releases of OHS regulators often refer to incidents that have occurred months or years ago when the circumstances are only remembered by the Courts, the company and the family of the deceased.  Surely there must be some way of issuing an interim alert that does not jeopardise the prosecution?  The preventative benefit would be so much more if the alert relates to an event that has occurred within the last week, for example, or while the tragedy is still being reported in the media.

In various venues throughout Victoria, John Merritt, has been showing a graph of the number of fatalities in the State in line with the National OHS Strategy leading to 2012.  Earlier this year, the fatality rate was above the benchmark.  Now, WorkSafe must be realising that the 2012 target is likely to be impossible.

Australia is not renowned for its OHS research.  What occurs is way below that of other similar economies and the funding is abominable.  It may be time to pull back on advertising expenditure and start researching the causes of the fatalities for a quick turn around of, at least interim, results.  Until this occurs, regardless of regular pleas from OHS regulators it is likely that we will still be hearing of incidents like these from Victoria:

“…a 42-year-old man fell from a roof and died while installing cables for a television antenna on a house in Tullamarine.”

“…another 42-year-old man is being treated for serious burns at the Alfred Hospital after fuel ignited as he prepared to refill a generator…”

“A man has died at Werribee after being run over by the trailer of a reversing tractor”

“…a farm worker was run over by a tractor on another Werribee South vegetable farm. He suffered serious injuries to his pelvis and was flown to hospital for surgery…”

“A Lower Templestowe man, 47, died from crushing injuries after a tractor he was driving became entangled in a steel wire supporting poles for a canopy over a Wandin North orchard.”

“A 45-year-old dairy farmer died near Portland when he was hit by his tractor and an implement and suffered fatal crushing injuries.”

“A man’s head was crushed between an industrial chipper and a truck at Warrandyte North”

“A man aged in his 50s died at Bannockburn near Geelong while operating a boom lift. He was found crushed between the machine’s bucket and the roof of a building in which he was working”

What we can be sure of is that 27 Victorian families will not be celebrating this Christmas.

Kevin Jones

The biggest management hurdle on workplace smoking 2

Smoking in the workplace is increasingly banned in countries around the world.  The mob of smokers in fire escapes and outside office building front doors are common occurences.  There is no denying that smoking is hazardous but this established fact does not seem to help with the regular management challenge – smokers work less than non-smokers and non-smokers resent this.

A recent study of workplace smoking in over a dozen countries published in the online edition International Journal of Public Health illustrates the continuing struggle.

“The study also found that overall employees estimated spending an average of one hour per day smoking at work, but most employees (almost 70 percent) did not believe that smoking had a negative financial impact on their employer.  However, about half of employers interviewed did believe that smoking had a negative financial impact on their organization.”

This people management issue often bleeds into the realm of the OHS manager as it is the health risks to the smokers and other workers than generated this division.  Clearly these statistics show the problem persists.

The tension comes from non-smokers working a full shift when a non-smoker is permitted to work at the same tasks for the same pay but work one hour less.  No companies have been able to solve this tension in any way other than encouraging smokers to quit smoking.  It may be attractive to OHS managers to leave this issue to the HR managers to struggle with but when planning any anti-smoking programs, this tension needs to be anticipated by OHS professionals.

“Several previous studies indicate that despite the beliefs of smoking employees and some employers in our study, smoking does have a substantial negative impact on a business’ finances,” [Michael Halpern PhD of RTI International] said. “More research needs to be done to quantify the economic impacts of workplace smoking and educate both employers and employees on those effects.”

Halpern’s comments illustrate a major limitation to the thinking of researchers on this issue and other similar workplace matters.  Workers’ health and compensation costs are rarely included in such surveys as business economics look at salary and time management issues yet business admits that worker health costs are part of the decision-making processes.

It is not that worker health costs are not quantifiable.  There is plenty of premium data, insurance figures and public health costs to include in the calculations but largely this data is ignored.  The researchers could take a two stage approach of, what they consider, primary labour costs with a mention of secondary health and compensation costs.  It would be possible to say something like “labour costs equate to $xxx – a substantial business costs but if workers’ compensation costs are included, an even more startling picture emerges…”

OHS professionals know that their job is not really one of handling safety issues exclusively but of managing safety within the business context.  To achieve this OHS professionals must be alert to all elements of business operation.

Kevin Jones

Australia’s Go Home on Time Day Reply

November 26 2009 was Go Home On Time Day in Australia.  The intention of this day, organised by The Australia Institute, was to highlight the difficulty many workers face in a achieving this seemingly simple task.  The Australia Institute’s expresses the aims this way:

  • The typical full-time employee is working 70 minutes of unpaid overtime a day, which equates to 33 eight-hour days per year, or six and a half standard working weeks.
  • Across the workforce, the 2.14 billion hours of unpaid overtime worked per year is a $72 billion gift to employers and means that 6% of our economy depends on free labour.
  • Converting unpaid overtime into full time jobs would create 1.1 million new jobs
  • Unpaid overtime harms our health, our personal relationships, our communities and our workplaces

The work/life balance advocates would say not doing unpaid overtime as a regular part of the job is an important balancing technique.

The Australia Institute has provided SafetyAtWorkBlog with some statistics from the special day’s 20,000 registered participants which may illustrate some of the difficulties of achieving that work/life balance.

Over 55% of registered participants managed to leave work at the contracted time on 26 November 2009.  Of those who could not, almost 70% said they could not because they “had too much work to do”.

Of those who went home on time, these were the most common activities:

  • Spent time with family/played with kids
  • Exercised/went to the gym
  • Household jobs/chores
  • Caught up with friends
  • Walked the dog

Those who admitted to working unpaid overtime (1836) gave the following reasons

To get the work done

86.5%

Because my boss/employer expects it

28.8%

To help colleagues

23.1%

To ensure my job is safe/secure

21.6%

To demonstrate how hard I work

14.2%

Because everyone else does it

13.6%

There seems to be only one genuinely positive and collegiate reason, to help colleagues.  The others indicate job and personal insecurity, unreasonable workloads or bad time management on behalf of employees and employers.

The statistics are of mostly curiosity value but are further indications of the social structural problems that contribute to increased work mental health risks.  Of those who signed up but could not get away from work, a couple of reasons given were

  • Boss knew I was trying to go home on time and loaded me up.
  • Management laughed.
  • My Boss said I was not to say the words out loud.

These days are intended to raise awareness of specific issues in society and Go Home On Time Day is a worthwhile addition but as with Asbestos Awareness Week, at some point awareness must move to action.

Kevin Jones