Mental health research broadens the workplace context Reply

Professor Tony LaMontagne is an Australian researcher and academic whose work always deserves careful consideration.  LaMontagne has been mentioned several times in SafetyAtWorkBlog.  The significance of his work is that it is not centred on occupational health and safety but has a major relevance nevertheless.

On the eve of Victoria’s Mental Health Week, LaMontagne has released a report, co-authored with Dr Kristy Sanderson, entitled “Estimating the economic benefits of eliminating job strain as a risk factor for depression”.  A more detailed article on the report will be on this blog in the next few days but there are a couple of notable points in the research.  Firstly, the study places job strain in the broader social context and not limited to the workplace, workers’ compensation, wellness or OHS. In this way, he is promoting a social agenda that has great potential. More…

Small business OHS seems to be stalled 14

OHS research into why the small business sector does not “get” safety has been occurring in Australia for over ten years with some of the most useful being undertaken by Dr Claire Mayhew.  But the challenge, or problem, persists.

On 4 October 2010, WorkSafe Victoria released some information about an OHS blitz by inspectors on small businesses in Mildura, a rural town in the extreme northwest of Victoria.  In some ways, the tone of the media statement is a little defeatist or, at least, exasperated.

“Although we wrote to the businesses and told them we would be visiting, we still had to pull them up on a high number of health and safety issues,” Manufacturing and Logistics Director Ross Pilkington said.  “In many cases, the safety solutions were straightforward.” More…

WorkCover and Suicides 2

In response to a recent post about Workplace Suicides, Rosemary McKenzie-Ferguson provided a lengthy comment that I believe deserves a post of its own:

The hardest funeral to say “a few words” at is the funeral of a suicide victim.

The hardest thing to do is look into the hearts of the family and friends of the person in the coffin and try to find a glimmer of hope to gift them to hold onto.

The hardest thing to cope with is knowing that the loved one in the coffin held onto life with both hands until the harshness of life within the WorkCover system became too much to cope with. More…

Death at work differs from work-related death 4

Often immediately following an incident, the safety manager receives a brief phone call “There’s been an accident.” Information is scarce and, in my experience, often wrong or more fairly inadequate. in OHS there will always be an assumption that an injury or death is work-related as that is our patch but people die every day and they can die anywhere, even in your workplace. Is this a workplace incident? Yes. Is it an occupational incident? not necessarily.

It is vital in those first moments of confusion and panic, not to jump to conclusions and rush out to the incident site. If it is your responsibility you will become involved but often, by asking a few simple questions, you are able to avoid this confusion and avoid worsening the situation by “butting in” where you are not needed.

I was reminded of this when reading about a coronial inquest into two suicides that occurred at an Australian shooting range in October 2008. These two incidents occurred at a workplace but not from work-related activities. There may have been some workplace management issues that, in hindsight, relate to supervision or security but these are the type of issues that the Coroner will investigate.

The deaths are reportable to the OHS regulators as they occurred on a workplace but it is unlikely that the regulator will put a lot of resources into the investigation given the Police and Coroner are investigating.

School principals seek solutions to workplace stress 3

Recently SafetyAtWorkBlog reported on stress issues in Tasmanian teachers.  Victorian data has been revealed of stress in the education profession through The Age newspaperr on 6 July 2010.   Apparently stress claims for school principals have cost $A2.4 million since 2005.

One principal said the claims are likely to be under-reported as a stress claim can kill one’s career.

For the purposes of this blog, control measures or causes need to be identified.  The Age article said that principals have asked the Education Department to consider the following issues.  It is reasonable to assume that these have been identified by the principals as contributory factors to workplace stress. More…

Social change through worker dignity 2

The need for food parcels for those on workers’ compensation seems to continue in South Australia according to a 3 July 2010 report in Adelaide Advertiser.  SafetyAtWorkBlog mentioned the service being offered by Rosemary Mackenzie-Ferguson and others in March 2010.

There are many areas of society that are supported by privately provided social services and this situation is likely to persist but just as soup kitchens illustrate a problem of poverty, so the food service mentioned above indicates a problem with workers’ compensation.

As each Australian state reviews its workers’ compensation laws ahead of a national harmonisation, it seems absurd to focus on the laws but not on the social impacts of those laws.  It is common to refer to a “whole-of-government” approach to issues but “whole-of-society” seems to be a slower concept to embrace.

Much is being made in Australia’s OHS harmonisation process of the need to look at the enforcement policies that support new legislation.  There is also a (flawed) reliance on Courts to provide clarity to the legislation rather than producing clear laws in the first place.  But rarely does government look beyond the law, the Courts, or the enforcement policies to assess the potentially negative social impacts of the OHS and workers’ compensation laws. More…

Comcare at Senate Estimates – enforcement performance indicators 1

Comcare is often seen as a minor player in OHS regulation in Australia because, although it has national coverage, it limits its OHS and workers’ compensation activities to specific industrial and public service sectors.  Although it is limited, it has a monopoly in those sectors and is powerful.  Its role in Australia’s harmonisation program seems to be just another OHS regulator but it has a unique role and structure.

Recently, Comcare’s CEO, Paul O’Connor, and Deputy CEO, Steve Kibble, addressed the Australian Senate’s Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Legislation Committee in the annual Estimates hearings.  Hansard reports Kibble’s comments (around page 32) on the enforcement activity of Comcare:

“Comcare has initiated 16 civil court proceedings in relation to alleged breaches of the OHS Act since 2004…..

Recent prosecutions include a matter in relation to a federal agent of the Australian Federal Police for a breach of his individual duties of care.   More…

OHS regulator reveals a blog about OHS fraud and crime Reply

Spying on people can be entertaining as can be shown by the popularity of hidden camera video on tabloid news shows but there is always a whiff of unfairness and distaste about the practice.

For the last couple of months, Washington State’s Department of Labour & Industries has been running a blog written by its Fraud Prevention and Compliance Manager, Carl Hammersburg.  The blog matches the remit of the regulatory authority and covers a range of industrial enforcement actions.  Occasionally it has included its own video surveillance  of potential workers’ compensation fraudsters.

On 28 April 2010, the blog,called “Nailed“, included video of  Frankie Day who, as a resulted on the L&I investigation, was found guilty of theft and then jailed. More…

What can OHS professionals learn from government program failures? 1

Marcus Priest of the Australia Financial Review wrote a good article on 2 June 2010 (only available through subscription or hard copy) that illustrates the managerial deficiencies of the Australian Government by looking at the lessons from two governmental investigation reports concerning a large-scale construction program for existing schools and the home insulation scheme.  Priest identifies several issues that should be noted by those who are designing large projects and who need to deal with the government directly

Priest’s opening paragraph is:

“The decisions by the Rudd government to try pull (sic) the country out of a recession by spending billions on schools and free home roofing insulation have come to be regarded as worthy ideas that morphed into a disaster of public administration.”

Marcus says that these reports show an overworked public service, unreasonable government expectations, a disconnection between policy and its real-world application and poor assumptions. More…

Queensland workers’ compensation reforms – is the good news really that good? 1

Queensland’s Premier, Anna Bligh, and Attorney-General, Cameron Dick have issued a curious media statement concerning their reform of the State’s workers’ compensation system.

The reform is intended “to ensure stability and certainty into the future” and “ensure that the Queensland average premium rate, while increasing, will remain the lowest of any state or territory.”

The Premier is saying the right message but the reality may be a little different.   More…