The last three of Radio National’s WorkLife podcasts have been uploaded. Episode 4, focusses on occupational health and safety (OHS) and is based around interviews with myself, Kevin Jones, and Professor Niki Ellis.
The episode is entitled Why is work making us sick? and balances the research-based experience of Prof. Ellis with my, hopefully, informed OHS opinions. Ellis’s point about the lack of research or regulatory attention to the psychosocial effects of musculoskeletal disorders deserves further consideration and is similar to calls for greater attention to the psychosocial impacts of a range of standard work practices and organisational structures and expectations.
One point that I made was that for most workers the default response to workplace bullying is to leave that workplace. This is an understandable decision and one that is supported by legislative obligations to not put oneself at harm, however, sometimes leaving a job means leaving a career, and this is not fair.
I don’t think that this situation will change using the current OHS and industrial relations mechanisms but the opportunity presented by developing a “respectful and equitable workplace culture”, as the Victorian Government intends, combined with a deeper, more serious, analysis of workplace mental health, should erase the circumstances that allow bullying and other psychosocial hazards to occur. Sadly this change is going to take decades.
Other WorkLife programs available for download are:
Finding a better balance for working parents
3 thoughts on “WorkLife podcast addresses OHS”
Great listening. Valuable input and commentary Kevin. I was a bit surprised by your figure around the costs absorbed by workers, but when you factor in all those flow on personal costs, I’m sure you’re right. There’s even a cost to children and spouses of injured workers that is largely unrecognised.
Mark, the figures I quoted on the radio have been quoted in several SafetyAtWorkBlog articles and originate from Safe Work Australia data.
Thanks for listening
Psychosocial social hazards in the workplace are multifactorial and incredibly complex, especially when in the context of individual, socio economic and other non work related stressors. I suspect that there will always be difficulties for the safety regulator to regulate these hazards in a way that will satisfy everyone. In some cases there are inherent stressors that one person would find overwhelming where as another person may not. That said, there should be a more holistic approach where assessments on the cognitive and emotional demands, work hours, conflict, support and other stressors are considered in context of the role that is available. The INIAL checklist, although cumbersome is a reasonable start for most organisations.