Half bored and tired to death 3

They both nodded in agreement when she said, “I’m half bored to death in this job, nearly had it”.  Both women were freezing, sitting outside in the covered area.  Their fingers blue.

The short morning break.  You hurry, you panic, get a quick hot drink, a cigarette, quickly back into it.  Hour after hour after hour “for the last 20 years” she said.  From 5 am when she gets up to do things before rushing to work to start at 7 am.  Rush back home at 3 pm to pick up ‘the youngan-whydidIdoit’ as she said of her late in life baby.  She looked about 40.

Of course workplace fatalities and injuries are heart breaking tragedies.  People work to earn a living, this is not a war zone.   But the more common issues at work, those that grind people hour by hour for decades of their one single life are not to do with that.

They are to do with what in polite text will spawn dots.  It’s to do with the daily tiredness, humiliation and wall-to-wall disrespect experienced by so many workers on a daily basis. It’s to do with that exhausting sense of,  ‘I’ve just about had enough’.  It’s to do with what I call F..kwit Fatigue. More…

Where do workers and managers learn about respect? 6

The origins of workplace bullying behaviour seem many.  One of the issues to, hopefully, emerge from Australia’s inquiry into workplace bullying is how to prevent and minimise bullying, but to do so, one will need to identify the causes.  And these causes need to be more than an amorphous, unhelpful concept like “workplace culture”.

David Yamadamake this comment in his blog, “Minding the Workplace“, about a recent article in a New York Times blog (gosh, social media feeds social media.  What’s a newspaper, Daddy?):

“Doctors and lawyers in training may have no idea how to conduct themselves as practitioners, other than being influenced by a lot of unfortunate “role models” on television. If we want to prevent workplace bullying, the training schools for these professions are the first and perhaps best places to start.”

This point links thematically to several recent SafetyAtWorkBlog articles about defining a safety profession, moving from a practice to a profession, workplace culture and workplace bullying. More…

2007 interview on working hours, stress and resilience Reply

In July 2007, I interviewed Michael Licenblat on the issues of workplace stress for the SafetyAtWork podcast.  Although the audio quality is not of a professional standard, it is worth revisiting Licenblat’s words as he discusses hours of work, particularly in light of the latest report by the Australian Medical Association on doctors and fatigue.

Kevin Jones

Workplace safety and the human condition 4

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…

Evidence of the need to change how and why we work Reply

Last week Professor Rod McClure of the Monash Injury Research Institute urged Australian safety professionals to look at the ecology of safety and injury prevention.  By using the term “ecology” outside of the colloquial, he was advocating that we search for a universal theory of injury prevention.  In short, he urged us to broaden our understanding of safety to embrace new perspectives.  It could also be argued that he wanted to break the safety profession out of its malaise and generate some social activism on injury prevention – a philosophical kick in the pants.

Before discussing the latest research Australia’s Barbara Pocock has undertaken, with her colleagues Natalie Skinner and Philippa Williams, the challenge of achieving some degree of balance between the two social activities of work and non-work can be indicated by a graph provided by Dick Bryan and Mike Rafferty in a recent DISSENT magazine article about financial risk.

In 2008 people in Australian households were working over 50 hours per week.  The reasons for this are of less relevance than the fact that Australian workers are well beyond the 40-hour work week, not including any travel time.  Work has a social cost as well as a social benefit and any discussion (debate?) over productivity, as is currently occurring in Australia, must also consider the social cost of this productivity.  The graph above is a symptom of the challenge of achieving a decent quality of life and a functional level of productivity – the challenge that Pocock, Skinner and Williams have undertaken. More…

Is fat the past tense of fit? WorkHealth assessment 6

Several years ago the board of  WorkSafe Victoria decided to fund a $A600 million health assessment program for workers from the workers’ compensation fund. The WorkHealth program has not been without its critics but WorkSafe announced this week that 1 in 4 Victorian workers have participated in the WorkHealth program.  Given this significance I undertook a work health assessment at the Safety In Action trade show.

The WorkHealth stand at the trade show had no waiting so I signed up for an assessment. The form asked basic questions about age, health, family illnesses, amount of exercise, alcohol consumption, smoking and dietary intake. I wrote that I was a fat, fifty, sedentary, moderate drinker who does not eat enough fruit. More…

The productivity debate in Australia misses the opportunities presented by wellbeing 1

At the moment Australian business is campaigning on the need to increase productivity rates in Australian workplaces.  It, with the recent support of some State governments and ideological colleagues, is seeking to achieve this by weakening the recent changes to the industrial relations structure encapsulated in the Fair Work Act.  Fair Work Australiatrade unions and industry associations are primarily focussed on the industrial relations elements of this ideological fight over productivity.
Evidence of the potential productivity and economic benefits of improved occupational health and safety has been missing in the debate yet it is this linkage that Dame Carol Black has been talking about recently in Australia.  It seems there is a keen audience for her perspective in Australia as she will be visiting the country four times in 2012.
At a recent OHS conference in Melbourne one speaker said some OHS positions in the United States are being renamed Occupational Health Productivity in recognition of the importance of wellbeing  in the OHS roles.  Renaming “wellbeing” as “productivity” provides a different context to OHS activities and should better gain senior executive attention as it would be easier to see how this activity fits with traditional operational thinking. More…

Do OHS workshops work? 11

Years ago I was invited to speak at a safety conference and to conduct a workshop.  I cocked up the workshop and realised that my conference presentation would need considerable reworking.  This experience made me shy of speaking engagements for a while but has provided me with a lasting suspicion on conference workshops.

At several conferences recently what was promoted as a presentation by a subject matter expert turned into a workshop where the presenter seeks the wisdom of the audience, the inverse of what should have occurred.  Some enjoy the participation of others in this format but I find better networking and brainstorming occurs in a less formal setting.  My advice is if you enter an auditorium and there is butcher’s paper anywhere in the room, leave.

However, practical workshops linked to safety conferences seem to be gaining in popularity, perhaps because they are easy to administer and promise little more than a “learning experience” where learning is often optional.   More…

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…