The Age newspaper’s front cover for 15 July 2015 was dominated by an article about happiness. The article is worth reading as it is built upon statistics from the long-term HILDA survey (Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia) that is used by many Australian researchers but, significantly, HILDA makes no reference to happiness. Various elements in the article relate to the workplace and work activity generally but a couple are of direct relevance to occupational health and safety.
“4. Be a workaholic
Work-life balance is overrated, the survey suggests. In fact, the more people work the better their health is. Employees can work more than 51 hours in paid work and 81 hours of total work (that’s more than 11 hours a day) without any detrimental effect on their wellbeing, according to the report.”
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…
In 2010 Queensland’s former Attorney-General Cameron Dick said of enforceable undertakings that:
“Enforceable undertakings promote the introduction of long-lasting and more wide-ranging safety changes that would not have occurred under the prosecutorial system that imposes fines after the event.”
Enforceable Undertakings can be a powerful force for improving occupational health and safety (OHS) but they could also be used by employers to forestall investment in OHS and minimise the financial penalties should an incident occur.
I am a Life Member of the Central Safety Group (CSG), a small network of OHS professionals who meet in central Melbourne each month. CSG seems to me to provide the best return on investment for professional development in my area and I’d like to recommend membership, if you are local.
The Central Safety Group has operated for over 40 years, continues to meet monthly, providing access to important guest speakers, like those listed below, and to networking opportunities. More…
Last week this blog reviewed the book Job Quality in Australia emphasising how worker safety, health and well-being is a vital element of job quality which, in turn, is crucial for Australia’s productivity. In preparation for a book launch in Sydney on 23 June 2015, the University of Sydney has released a media statement (available online later today) from one of the book’s authors and editors, Professor Angela Knox.
According to the media release, Professor Knox believes that:
“You measure job quality through wages, job security, training and skill development, and career development opportunities…. Australia is falling behind the developed world because we don’t have proactive policies that will allow us to improve the quality of jobs.”
“If we don’t actively work towards improving the quality of jobs personal wellbeing declines, job satisfaction declines and this limits productivity, employment levels, innovation and economic growth…
“We need to educate employers so that they know what their choices are and how they can go about improving jobs…. Good policies and education lead to a virtuous cycle of high quality jobs boosting further job growth.”
The Australian Industry Group (AIGroup) submission to the Australian Government’s Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement inquiry into crystal methamphetamine, commonly known as Ice, has been made publicly available. The submission focuses on the risks to all workplaces, primarily, by imposing non-work statistics onto the workplace, lumping Ice in with other illicit drugs, and relying on anecdotal evidence. This approach is not unique to AiGroup and can also be seen regularly in the mainstream media but such an important Inquiry requires a much higher quality of evidence than anecdotes.
The submission references a recent Australian Crime Commission (ACC) report into Ice saying it:
“… paints a bleak picture for the community and Australian workplaces. This combined with greater ease of access, including in regional areas, places Australian workplaces at risk.
A key requirement for employers seeking to manage safety risks arising from persons attending work affected by Ice is the ability to conduct workplace drug and alcohol testing.” (page 3)
The ACC report refers almost exclusively to the hazards presented to hospital and emergency staff, not by Ice use by staff, and yet is able to link Ice-affected public to the drug testing of workers. More…
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…
There is a clear link between the modern take on occupational health and safety (which includes psychosocial health) and productivity. However, there are seriously mixed messages coming from the Productivity Commission (PC) in its current inquiry into Australia’s Workplace Relations Framework.
In Senate Estimates on 3 June 2014 (draft Hansard), the Chair of the Productivity Commission, Peter Harris, and Assistant Commissioner, Ralph Lattimore, briefly discussed OHS. Harris acknowledged that some of the submissions to the current inquiry discussed OHS matters (page 65) but Lattimore stated:
“….we did say that we would quarantine the inquiry away from workforce health and safety issues unless they were directly related to, say, enterprise bargaining or some feature of the relationship between employers and employees. We were aware of the large amount of regulation in that area, and we were not planning to revisit that.”
On 1 June 2015 Australia’s Radio National broadcast a discussion about the future of work, in support of a Vivid Festival conference. Listening to the discussion through the prism of occupational health and safety (OHS) is an interesting experience as work/life balance is promoted as empowering the individual but, as we know in OHS, individuals often sacrifice their safety for income or deadlines or project demands, contrary to their legislative obligations. The workplace flexibility that many people seek allows the individual to manage the workload and develop or design the working environment. In other terms they establish an unregulated workplace. So what influence will OHS have in these new and emerging workplace configurations? Probably very little.
ABC’s Natasha Mitchell spoke with the curator of the conference Jess Scully. The context seems to be workplace flexibility, primarily, in the creative industries but not exclusively. Mitchell says that this increased flexibility can be seen in an increase in short-term contracts, job insecurity and “inadequate conditions” to which can be added unsafe work environments. More…
The 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…