If everyone claimed compensation for work-related stress in Australia, the estimated annual cost would be $83 billion Reply

Lucinda Smith of Esteem People Management has made some excellent points about stress and mental health in her article – “The People Risk of Work-Related Stress“.  On determining the cost of mental stress she acknowledges authoritative government estimates but, significantly, states of the data:

“Although not fully exploring the issue of workplace stress because it only applies to accepted claims,…”

This is the core of much of the frustration in the OHS profession that injury and illness is always underestimated because data is based on workers’ compensation statistics.

Where Smith progresses the argument, though, is by comparing several important pieces of data.  Quoted in a Safe Work Australia report, Medibank Private estimated in 2008 that the direct cost of work-related stress was

“…$14.81 billion to the Australian economy, and $10.11 billion to Australian employers because of stress-related presenteeism and absenteeism.” (page 3 of the Safe Work Australia report)

More…

Investing in new and young workers can be tough but rewarding 1

Commenting on the Australian Government’s new employment services model, Anglicare provided a research paper, Beyond Supply and Demand, that referenced occupational health and safety (OHS) and so caught our attention.  The report said:

“…job seekers may experience issues with the importance of getting to work on time, keeping the employer informed if they are unable to attend work, and the following of basic policies and procedures, such as those around occupational health and safety (Cortis et al., 2013). The research also identified that this lack of workplace knowledge leads to  assumptions that recruits were lacking in work ethic or disinterested in the work.” (page 6)

The report goes on to discuss the social services context primarily but the OHS mention deserved following up.  The research by Natasha Cortis, Jane Bullen, and Myra Hamilton states that employers often misunderstand new job recruits and although OHS is specifically referenced only in the mention of reporting accidents, the rest of the quote below should be noted by employers and safety professionals when preparing OHS communications to new workers. More…

New industrial relations book does service to OHS (for a change) 2

It is common for industrial relations to be written about without any mention or serious analysis of occupational health and safety (OHS). But a new textbook on Australian industrial relations includes a very good chapter of OHS that, significantly, cross-references other chapters in the book to provide a unified approach that reflects both the title and its intent. The book is called “Australian Workplace Relations” and the workplace health and safety chapter is written by Elsa Underhill.

Underhill has written on the OHS effects of precarious employment extensively and this issue is the basis of her chapter.  She sees this as major cause of many of the OHS issues, particularly the growth in psychosocial risks in modern society and provides copious amounts of Australian and international research in support. More…

No code of practice for workplace bullying but hope remains 2

Ha01-037As the 1 January 2014 implementation date for new workplace bullying processes approaches there is an increasing amount of legal, HR, and safety seminars, and newsletters and alerts being produced.  Most reiterate the amendments to Australia’s Fair Work Act but occasionally there is additional information.

In a recent seminar, it was suggested that the draft Code of Practice for the Prevention and Management of Workplace Bullying, developed by Safe Work Australia, is to be released as a guidance note rather than a Code of Practice (see below).  More…

IR to HR to OHS to WHS to Mental Health in one lunchbreak Reply

Every so often, legal seminars on industrial relations and occupational health and safety identify possible solutions instead of spruiking a lawyer’s latest publication or showing off legal expertise and OHS ignorance.  In a lunchtime seminar in July 2013, Melbourne law firm Maddocks provided 30 minutes of clarity on flexible working arrangements and another 30 on workplace bullying providing a useful and refreshing bridge between human resources, industrial relations and OHS.

Flexible Work Arrangements

The Fair Work Act seems to be constantly changing and one of the most recent changes is a revision of flexible working arrangements.  These arrangements have always been on the fringe of OHS but integral to HR where returning to work from extended leave needs phasing in, or where one’s familial situation has changed so that 9 to 5 is no longer manageable.  OHS is not overt in these negotiations More…

Favourable progress could be achieved on OHS if the current reality is accepted 8

The issue of “control” in Australian OHS law continues to be discussed as industry associations bristle against the introduction of Work Health and Safety laws, frequently on flawed or dubious costings.

Australian safety laws have been moving from the prescriptive tradition for decades. This has been due to various reasons including new workplace hazards that cannot be controlled in defined ways, diminished enforcement resources and confused roles in OHS regulators, the change in labour force dominance from blue- to white-collar occupations but, most of all, repeated demands from business associations for increased flexibility and autonomy on managing workplace safety.

Certainly the degree of control has varied from State to State with New South Wales being considered as having the most business-unfriendly OHS laws but most States are now running under a different set of OHS rules and criticizing the current laws by referring to now-repealed OHS laws in the most extreme State of New South Wales, as Ken Phillips does in today’s The Australian newspaper, is almost sophistry. More…

Workplace safety and the human condition 3

Articles and reports about decent work, dignity at work and mental health issues are increasingly appearing on my desktop.  Perhaps this is an indication of a convergence of perspectives in to a better understanding on the human imperative in the modern workplace.  It may be a realisation of where and how work fits in the human condition.

On May 1 2012 the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) issued a pastoral letter on the “Dignity of Work“.  This came across my desk around the same time as I was looking at values-based safety.  The parallels between dignity and values-based safety were obvious.

The pastoral letter looks at the need for dignity in relation to casual work.  It says

“…casual work offers flexibility to balance work and family commitments, to undertake study or to supplement the income of a spouse.  But for a growing number of people, it has become an impediment to achieving a healthy and fulfilling life.  For many in insecure work, ‘flexibility’ represents a backward step rather than a path to improved wages and conditions.”

The Australian business sector rarely talks about casualisation directly but the concept is present every time there is a discussion on workplace flexibility, business’ preferred term. More…

Australia to ratify ILO OHS Convention, says Senator Reply

The Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported on 14 June 2011 (not freely available online) that Senator Jacinta Collins has publicly stated that an International Labour Organisation (ILO) occupational health and safety convention will be signed by the current Government in conjunction with other conventions on maritime labour, asbestos and part-time work.  The announcement that “Australia will ratify four ILO Conventions this year” was made at the recent International Labour Conference.

Most of the AFR article focussed on the labour relations impacts of the conventions but RMIT’s Professor of Law, Breen Creighton noted that

“Ratifying a convention has no effect in Australian law unless the Australian parliaments legislate to give effect to the international obligations.”

Senator Collins’ speech identifies the OHS protocol as the “Optional Protocol of 2002 to the Occupational Health and Safety Convention”.

A brief discussion on this protocol occurred on this blog in late April 2011 when the ratification was mentioned during the World Day for Safety and Health at Work.

Kevin Jones

Evidence on the need for safe job design 2

One reader has provided an example of recent research that supports the previous SafetyAtWorkBlog article on the importance of quality and safety in job creation.

In the March 2011 online edition of the Occupational & Environmental Medicine journal, Australian researchers have analysed data concerning “the psychosocial quality of work”.  According to an accompanying media release (not available online yet) they found that

“The impact on mental health of a badly paid, poorly supported, or short term job can be as harmful as no job at all…” More…

Creating jobs is a waste unless those jobs are safe 1

Coming out of recession or, at least, a global financial crisis seems to mean that the creation of jobs is the only driver of economic growth.  Governments around the world seem obsessed with employment creation but rarely is the quality of the employment ever considered.

The drive for jobs at the cost of other employment conditions such as safety was illustrated on 11 March 2011 in an article in The Australian newspaper.  New South Wales’ election is only a short while away and, as it is widely considered to be an easy win for the conservative Liberal Party, government policies are already being discussed.

“Industrial relations spokesman Greg Pearce, a former partner at Freehills, said he was aware that concerns about the workplace safety system had emerged in the legal profession.

But the Coalition’s main goal was to minimise uncertainty to encourage job creation.”

The push for jobs is also indicative of short-term political thinking. More…