The COVID19 pandemic is a public health challenge but what happens when workplaces are integral to the control and spread of the virus? This overlap between public health and occupational health is complicated and unlikely to be resolved in the short term, however, it can fixed in the longer term. The crisis in the Australian State of Victoria (where this author lives) offers an example of this complexity, but also an opportunity for positive change, perhaps even, a Department of Safety.
Many workers continue to work when sick. This is called presenteeism and in a time of infection pandemic, is a major problem. Many countries have addressed the COVID19 risks of presenteeism by requiring people to work from home if they can. In Australia, the message is not totally working with people ignoring the rules for various reasons.
However, presenteeism also has a deeper cultural and institutional origin that has been exploited by some and downplayed or ignored by others.
Australian farm safety received several boosts last week. FarmSafe Australia released new report on agricultural injury and fatality trends. The Victorian Government gave the Victorian Farmers Federation more money to fund farm safety inspectors, again. And the Agriculture Minister established a Farm Safety Council of the usual agricultural groups. It is hard not to take many of these farm safety activities as indications of insanity by doing the same thing but expecting different results.
SafetyAtWorkBlog tries to include links to original data and reports wherever possible. Last week the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) released its 2020 data insights report. There is a lot in it, and some relates to workplace risks. Perhaps the most useful section is the chapter of Social Determinants of Health (SDH). For those readers for whom this is a new concept, this chapter is obligatory reading.
SDH is crucial to understanding how occupational health and safety (OHS) risks fit with non-work, or social, activities, government policy decisions and economic pressures. The beauty of the AIHW take on SDH is that it based on Australian data.
The apparent suicide of former Australian Football player, Shane Tuck, last week has again sparked discussion in the media and the community about suicide. The Victorian Coroner, John Cain, believes that how we talk about suicide needs a review. As workplace and work-related suicides also occur, the discussion is relevant to occupational health and safety (OHS).