Disruption to service

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Kevin Jones

Grievance Culture and Responsibility

Julian Baggini is a philosopher less well-known in Australia than in the United Kingdom but his writings can add to some of the current discussions about occupational health and safety (OHS) and business ethics.

In his 2010 book, Complaint, he analyses our grievance culture and how complaints can and should result in positive outcomes. OHS often seems to run on complaints and to understand how to respond to complaints, it is necessary to understand who is responsible for that response and why.

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OHS and exploitation

Work-related harm is often generated by exploitation, but exploitation is a term rarely used by the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession. If it was, the OHS approach to harm prevention may be very different, especially now that a safe and healthy working environment is a fundamental right.

Perhaps the omission of exploitation is not that surprising. It is often seen through the lens of industrial relations, and a flexible demarcation often exists between IR and OHS. It is important to note that the International Labour Organisation’s Glossary of OSH terms also fails to include exploitation though it is from 1993.

However, a recent report from the Grattan Institute, Short-changed: How to stop the exploitation of migrant workers in Australia, does discuss workplace health and safety as an element of worker exploitation.

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Chalk and Cheese – legal seminars on mental health at work

Over the last few months, various seminars from law firms and others have focussed on how to comply with new and impending occupational health and safety regulations related to psychosocial hazards at work. Over the last fortnight, I attended two such seminars; they were as different as chalk and cheese, even though both had strong voices from lawyers, illustrating the sources of some of the confusion over the issue felt by some employers.

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When an increase of 0.5 percentage points is described as an outrageous 43% increase

This week the Victorian Government flagged changes to the workers’ compensation premiums and eligibility. This has generated outrage from business lobby groups and the trade unions, and as he is being criticised by both political extremes, Premier Dan Andrews believes his decision, i.e. being hated by everyone, is a winner.

The Age newspaper was one of the first to report (paywalled) on the announcement of these changes on May 19, 2023. Significantly it included a quote from Dr Mary Wyatt on the economic and social importance of injury prevention. Hers has been one of the few mentions of the role of good occupational health and safety (OHS) management.

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Now “we need a systemic reform to the mental health system”. We always did

[This article discusses suicide.]

The tide seems to be turning in approaches to the prevention of suicides in Australia. Recently the CEO of Suicide Prevention Australia, Nieves Murray, concluded a radio interview with some advice that relates directly to workplace suicides.

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A new unicorn – the creation of a work health and safety myth

Occupational health and safety (OHS) has many myths, as do many other business disciplines. This is particularly concerning in a discipline that advocates evidence-based decision-making and pushes for peer-reviewed independent research. Sometimes these myths relate to using gym balls as office chairs or back belts or “safe lifting techniques” to reduce manual handling risks or, and this is one of my own suspicions, ankle-high safety boots that reduce the risk of ankle injuries. There are also mixed messages about sit-stand desks. (Counterarguments welcome in the comments below)

The United States seems to be in the early stages of an urban myth about police overdosing after accidental exposure to fentanyl, although this has been cooking since at least 2021. The nature of social media and the internet suggests that sometime soon, this accusation or experience will appear in Australia. Various USbased media have looked at this occupational hazard, with the latest being National Public Radio (NPR) on May 16, 2023.

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