Chatham House rule misrepresentation

I am one of the few freelance writers in Australia who focuses on occupational health and safety (OHS). As a result, my presence is often uncomfortable to those who organise conferences and seminars, even though I operate under the Journalist Code of Ethics. People have had to accept that there is now a media interest in OHS-related events where previously there was very little.  This has caused a couple of problems and challenges.

Chatham House Rule

Recently, one seminar organiser suggested I not attend an event because the “Chatham House Rule” was to be applied.  They said that as I would not be permitted to report on anything said in the seminar, it may not be worth me attending.  This is a corruption of the Chatham House Rule which is best described by Chatham House itself as:

“When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.”

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New OHS conference with prominent speakers

One of the hottest occupational health and safety (OHS) issues at the moment is Industrial Manslaughter but this is just one aspect of the enforcement of OHS and prosecution for breaches. In June 2019 a two-day conference on OHS/WHS Prosecution and Enforcement is being held in Melbourne, Australia with a list of respected speakers who are prominent in Australian labour law circles.

The conference is more expensive than some other OHS conferences but the list of speakers is impressive and the theme could not be more topical. (A brochure is available for download) Until March 15 2019, Criterion Conferences is applying an Early Bird discount of $500 for each delegate. SafetyAtWorkBlog has negotiated a further discount applicable to Subscribers only.

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Submission to the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces

Australian research into occupational health and safety (OHS) is a lot less than research into other areas of business and management, especially in relation to the psychological wellbeing of workers at all levels of the corporate structure.  As such, it has become common for experts, advocates and researchers from the social, non-work, public health areas to overlay general and broad research findings on to workplaces – they are, in effect, filling a vacuum.  But just because the OHS research into psychological harm is thin or immature does not mean that work does not have its own characteristics.

Over many years OHS has produced research and guidelines that include the psychological effect of sexual harassment, but it has been ineffectual or ignored for may reasons.  This submission is an attempt to illustrate the potential already in existence in Australia that could be used to prevent sexual harassment-related psychological harm.

This submission has drawn almost exclusively on Australian-based documentation and research to better satisfy the title and aim of this Inquiry.  This is not saying that actions and data from overseas are not relevant: there is some excellent information on the matter from the European Union[1], for instance. But quite often people seem to look overseas for evidence and solutions when Australia already has good research and advice, if one looks.

Summary of key points

  • Sexual harassment often results in psychological harm to workers, and employers and PCBUs already have a legislative obligation under OHS/WHS law to eliminate (prevent) risks to health and safety, including psychological risks.
  • By accepting that sexual harassment is a form of workplace violence, new prevention options may be available.
  • Australia has a range of general and specific guidance on the systematic prevention of the psychological harm generated by sexual harassment, produced by Federal and State or Territorial health and safety regulators.
  • Prevention of sexual harassment may be extremely disruptive to workplaces even though it remains the most effective control measure.
  • Any strategy to prevent sexual harassment must have a multidisciplinary and cross-agency approach.
  • Independent assessment of sexual harassment risks can be determined to internationally-recognised Standards
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Workplace sexual harassment inquiry releases submissions

The National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces has started to release some of its public submissions. The Inquiry has received a lot of submissions but this blog will continue its search for strategies to prevent sexual harassment and the related psychological harm, as indicated in the Inquiry’s terms of reference and reiterated repeatedly by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins.

One submission by Anita McKay is very detailed and titled “Recent Developments in Sexual Harassment Law: Towards a New Model”.

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Is OHS a socialist plot?

As the dominance of neoliberalism weakens around the world, people are fearful of what comes next. In some sectors, that fear includes occupational health and safety (OHS). OHS is a business cost, in the same way as every other cost of running a business, but it is often seen as an interloper, a fun-sucker, a nuisance and/or an impediment to profitability. This misinterpretation needs to be contested.

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