Decades ago, the occupational health and safety (OHS) conferences had speakers regularly urging us to focus on the “H” in OHS. The “H” was often “Health”, but it was also the “Human”. OHS professionals have long acknowledged that the profession, and the OHS regulators, focussed for too long on traumatic physical injuries and less on health risks, often related to dust, or human risks associated with bullying, harassment and other psychosocial harms. Those days have gone by, but employers and institutions are yet to catch up.
Part of the reason for this lag is the intransigence of the neoliberal ideology and economics epitomised by Margaret Thatcher in the UK, Ronald Reagan in the USA, and Bob Hawke, Paul Keating and John Howard in Australia. (Australia’s neoliberalism was sneakier than in other countries and not just nationally. Jeff Kennett, I am talking about you). Neoliberalism is on the decline, although slower than it should be.