Young Worker Safety – Part 3

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Several colleagues have pointed to a young worker safety website that was established in Canada several years ago, http://www.notworthit.ca/ .   The site, part of the WCB’s Young Worker campaign, won an award from American Association of State Compensation Insurance Funds in their annual Communications Awards in 2007.

There are remarkable similarities to The Pain Factory, even to the point of encoruaging young workers to tell their own stories.  The similarity is, perhaps, justified when considering the safety message is aimed at the same demographics, however it shows that originality is rare in occupational health and safety promotions.  Certainly the use of internet videos is a marked difference between the sites but the success of NotWorthIt should be remembered if The Pain Factory is also put forward for advertising or communications awards.

WorkSafe CEO, John Merrit is a strong advocate of his organisation’s young worker campaign.

Physical activity, mental health, alcohol consumption and productivity

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The Victorian Government’s workplace health strategy may be “coughing up blood” but health promotion continues.  Last week, Australian health insurer, Medibank Private, released some statistics and cost estimates related to physical inactivity.

According to the media release, physical inactivity costing the Australian economy $13.8 billion a year. The findings are based on research conducted in conjunction with KPMG-Econtech which builds on Medibank’s 2007 research and “captures the healthcare costs, economy wide productivity costs, and the mortality costs of individuals passing away prematurely as a result of physical inactivity.”

Craig Bosworth of Medibank Private says, 

“Most Australians are aware of the benefits of physical activity but this latest round of Medibank research has revealed some alarming effects of physical inactivity. An estimated 16,179 people die prematurely each year due to conditions and diseases attributable to physical inactivity and that is frightening. And whilst the majority of these are from the older population there is also a large number of people dying under 74 years of age due to physical inactivity, particularly in the male population.”

Bosworth goes on to say:

“Like other health risk factors, physical inactivity can have an adverse effect on organisations as well as individuals. Specifically, physical inactivity can impact on employee productivity by causing increased absenteeism and presenteeism, which impose direct economic costs on employers. The Medibank research has found that productivity loss due to physical inactivity equates to 1.8 working days per worker per year.”

Three audio statements on this research are available – physical-inactivity-telephone-grabs-edit

The SuperFriend Industry Funds Forum Mental Health Foundation has also released statistics on mental health in the workplace. The survey also found that 50 per cent of Australians admit to often feeling stressed and a quarter often feel depressed. 

John Mendoza, Chair of SuperFriend’s Mental Health Reference Group, said, “There is increasing evidence of a link between stress in the workplace and mental illness. The cost of workplace stress to Australian business is potentially crippling.” Listen – workplace-mental-health-edit

The Superfriends survey found

StreetWise
StreetWise
  • One in two Australians believe that having a few drinks is a good way to maintain or improve their mental health;
  • 80 per cent of Australians believe watching TV has a positive impact on their mental health;
  • Australians are putting their bodies ahead of their brains, with three-quarters of Australians engaged in activity to maintain or improve their physical health, while only 50 per cent are actively engaging in activity to maintain or improve their mental health.
  • Older Australians are more likely to heed the call ‘use it or lose it’. While 57 per cent of all Australians feel they take good care of their mental health, 68 per cent of those over 50 feel they are looking after themselves emotionally.
  • Australians aged 40 to 49 are the unhappiest and unhealthiest. Those in this age group are more likely to feel stressed and depressed and less likely to look after their physical and mental health.

A good starting point in planning to manage stress is the StressWise publication by WorkSafe Victoria.

For many decades, perhaps centuries, unhappiness at work was countered, to varying degrees, through the consumption of alcohol.  According to the latest Australian Unity Wellbeing Index people who drink everyday are the happiest, whereas non-drinkers have a lower sense of wellbeing.

Amanda Hagan of Australian Unity summarises some of the research findings and supports the link between physical activity and positive wellbeing. Listen – australian-unity-wellbeing-index-aap-medianet-edit

Worker’s Compensation Funds and global financial problems

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(Particularly) since the fall of Lehman Brothers, the returns on investments throughout the world have dived.  Australia has been relatively unaffected but the signs are starting to look bad and if it wasn’t for China and India buying the country’s resources, Australia’s economy would more closely resemble Europe and the United States.

 

Martin Hamilton-Smith talking with listeners on 5AA radio
Martin Hamilton-Smith talking with listeners on 5AA radio

This turmoil provides a free-kick for opposition political parties who can question governments on their economic performance and foresight.  For some time the South Australian opposition leader, Martin Hamilton-Smith, has been attacking in just this manner.  Last week the WorkCover Corporation released its annual report.  It happened to be during a sitting of Parliament so question time was peppered with WorkCover-related questions.

 

Often, the discussion is empty argy-bargy but Liberal Party leader Hamilton-Smith asked the most important question based on the 2008 Annual Report.

Can the Minister for Industrial Affairs explain to the house why WorkCover Corporation’s income from investments appears to have fallen by a quarter of a billion dollars in one financial year?

One has to remember that that Annual Report covers 2007-2008 and the financial crisis has only really cranked up in 2008.  WorkCover Corporation lost $238 million.  WorkCover Minister Paul Caica responded by blaming global problems so Hamilton-Smith asked another question, how much has been lost in the current financial year?

Paul Caica, understandably, did not have those figures available but the question highlighted the importance of chronology in the management of workers compensation funds.  When the international investment market started to fail, how did the fund managers of WorkCover Corporation react?

This will become increasingly important as other State Governments in Australia begin releasing their departmental annual reports over the next few months.  The Victorian Government has a habit of releasing their annual reports in such a way that adequate scrutiny is impossible.  The honour and trustworthiness of governments will be shown by how open and accountability they can be in the next 12 months.

But don’t allow them the easy “out” of blaming the global financial crisis for underperformance.  In the area of workers compensation, it is our premiums that provide them their economic base.

Young Worker Safety – Part 2

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A Canadian OHS colleague has drawn attention to a younger worker safety site at http://www.youngworker.ca/en/flash/yw_2008.aspx.  This is also a very good site and the humour is appreciated.

Another colleague has said that the WorkSafe Victoria site captivated his teenagers for 30 minutes.

The trick in commenting on any of these websites is that they are only one part, usually, of a larger safety campaign.   Blogs don’t allow for a full assessment of the campaign unless the blogger fits the campaign’s demographics and is fed all the campaign stats, data and marketing justifications directly from the regulator.

With this understanding, comments from readers of SafetyAtWorkBlog are greatly appreciated.

Young Worker Safety – “The Pain Factory”

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At a recent safety conference in Australia, many presenters used videos downloaded from the internet, either to educate the audience or to titillate.  The internet abounds with videos of people doing stupid things or injuring themselves.

I am not beyond laughing at a man being hit in the testicles.  Indeed most “family” movies currently have a bang in the testicles, a fart gag or a pooh joke. 

WorkSafe Victoria has made a valiant effort to link stupid internet videos with a message about workplace safety.  Recently the authority produced a website “The Pain Factory“.  This site has a collection of internet videos that show people being hurt.  Whether the injuries are severe and required hospitalisation is unclear.

Viewers are encouraged to watch a number of  videos to accrue “points” from which special locked videos are available.  These videos depict another bang in the scrotum, a BMX rider smashing his face and a skateboard rider being run over by an SUV.

I don’t like the approach, the language is sometimes dismissive of injuries and the issue of pain is uncomfortable but this site is not meant for me and it may appeal to those under 20 years.  I kept remembering the trade union comments about the recent graphic ads and I wondered if, from the Pain Factory, young workers will ask their employers for help or feel ashamed of their own stupidity and not report an injury.  There is little indication of the support systems and services that are available to workers.

However, WorkSafe is trying something new, different and using Web 2.0.  It’s a step in the right technological direction but I suspect the safety conservatives may complain (if they find the site – it’s not linked through the WorkSafe website, however this may be on purpose)