How will “independent workplace facilitators” improve OHS?

Every government releases a great deal of information, particularly around budget time and occupational health and safety (OHS) funding often gets missed in the overviews and media discussion.  The Victorian Government’s budget papers (Budget Paper No. 3 – Service Delivery) for 2017 included A$3 million to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) for

“Addressing occupational violence against health workers and workplace bullying” (page 78)

There is no doubt that such funding will help improve OHS but it also seems odd, given some of the recent incidents and riots,  the corrections and prison services received no specific OHS funding. The introduction of “a trial of independent workplace facilitators” is also intriguing.

Continue reading “How will “independent workplace facilitators” improve OHS?”

EU provides clues for improving safety management

Cover of ef1551enThe European Union conducts research into occupational health and safety that, although there may be cultural and legislative differences, deserves attention from outside that geographical region.  Recently EuroFound released its annual review for 2014.  There are a couple of research projects that deserve consideration, particularly return-on-investment in construction safety, violence at work, psychosocial issues and precarious work risks. Continue reading “EU provides clues for improving safety management”

Momentum increases for tangible action on workplace bullying

According to the Canberra Times, a company board has been served with an improvement notice over inadequate attention to workplace bullying claims in a retirement home.  The ABC television program, 7.30, has followed up workplace bullying claims aired earlier this month with a further case on 25 September 2012 with savage criticism of WorkSafe Victoria’s actions in the case.

The Australian Government has completed the public hearings of its Parliamentary Inquiry into workplace bullying.  Bullying is everywhere but little seems to be happening to address the various elements and deficiencies of the regulatory system.

On 21 September 2012 the WorkSafe ACT Commissioner warned about inaction on workplace bullying:

“If bullying has not occurred, then a properly conducted investigation should find that… If, on the other hand, an independent investigation substantiates the allegations, then the employer will be in a position to act to protect their workers from any ongoing threat to their health and safety.” Continue reading “Momentum increases for tangible action on workplace bullying”

Where do workers and managers learn about respect?

The origins of workplace bullying behaviour seem many.  One of the issues to, hopefully, emerge from Australia’s inquiry into workplace bullying is how to prevent and minimise bullying, but to do so, one will need to identify the causes.  And these causes need to be more than an amorphous, unhelpful concept like “workplace culture”.

David Yamadamake this comment in his blog, “Minding the Workplace“, about a recent article in a New York Times blog (gosh, social media feeds social media.  What’s a newspaper, Daddy?):

“Doctors and lawyers in training may have no idea how to conduct themselves as practitioners, other than being influenced by a lot of unfortunate “role models” on television. If we want to prevent workplace bullying, the training schools for these professions are the first and perhaps best places to start.”

This point links thematically to several recent SafetyAtWorkBlog articles about defining a safety profession, moving from a practice to a profession, workplace culture and workplace bullying. Continue reading “Where do workers and managers learn about respect?”

Australian employer group doesn’t “get” workplace bullying

Garry Brack is the head of the Australian Federation of Employers and Industries (AFEI), formerly known as Employers First which summarises the industrial philosophy of the organisation.  In the past he has stated that OHS laws are not necessary but this week he has upset the parents of Brodie Panlock by emphasising a failed love affair between Brodie and a work colleague and downplaying the  instances of abuse and bullying that drove Brodie Panlock to jump to her death.

The comments on the ABC Lateline program echo his comments at the public hearing in Sydney of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying. (The Hansard of his presentation is not yet available online although the AFEI submission to the inquiry is)  Brack’s position is difficult to understand as the Inquiry submission and his words at the hearing display a poor understanding of how other organisations and experts (and Brodie’s parents) see workplace bullying.

The AFEI submission says

“What concerns employers is the breadth of these [bullying] definitions which allow a limitless range of actions and behaviour to be construed as bullying by workers – in all jurisdictions. This is where the regulatory difficulty lies. It is not that there are differences in regulatory requirements but that compliance is impossible to achieve. This is because the concept of workplace bullying, as viewed by regulators, is not confined to recklessness, intimidation, aggressive or violent acts, threatening actions or behaviour, verbal abuse or an actual risk to health and safety. It may be anything from a customer demanding faster service or just complaining (even over the phone) to setting deadlines or changing work hours.”

There are several nonsensical statements here.  The Parliamentary Inquiry is not an investigation of regulations, it is an inquiry into workplace bullying.   Continue reading “Australian employer group doesn’t “get” workplace bullying”

WorkSafe Victoria tries humour in safety advertising

For the last few weeks WorkSafe Victoria has been running new injury prevention advertisements based on a game show theme of playing the odds on injuring a worker.  The curiosity of this campaign is that humour and a little bit of shame has been employed to communicate.

It is refreshing for an OHS regulator to use humour in the aim of improving workplace safety particularly as this attempt avoids the slapstick humour that has been tried in the past by several safety organisations.  Workplace injuries are not a laughing matter but a gentle humour can be used to prick the conscience of those who have safety obligations.

Conversations with OHS peers on these ads has shown a perplexity over these ads.  Those who have established a public face or a reputation in the safety field are unsure whether laughing or, at the least, being amused is appropriate.  There is a fine line between mockery and amusement so hesitation is understandable. Continue reading “WorkSafe Victoria tries humour in safety advertising”

Academic clarifies objections to sex work

Caroline Norma of RMIT University responded to some questions about sex work and brothel safety put to her by SafetyAtWorkBlog in response to her recently published opinion piece.  This article is a companion piece to an earlier SafetyAtWorkBlog article on sex work and safety.

SAWB: What action do you recommend that brothel owners should take, beyond the current legislative and licensing requirements, to ensure that only safe sex occurs on their premises?

CN: “Brothel owners are currently commissioning violence against women by operating prostitution businesses.  Prostitution is inherently a practice of violence against women, and can’t be made ‘safe’ for women by any action by pimps.  In fact, brothel owners have a financial conflict of interest with regards to ensuring the safety of women in their venues, because clients will pay more for unprotected sex acts, violent sex, body punishing sex acts like anal penetration, sex with younger women, etc.” Continue reading “Academic clarifies objections to sex work”

Australian lawyers comment on Brodie’s Law

Clayton Utz lawyers have looked at Victoria’s new bullying-related law changes for their relevance to workplace safety management and have found the following.

Is this an issue for employers?

Yes and no.

Theoretically, even before these proposed amendments, certain types of workplace bullying already fell within the definition of stalking.  In one sense, therefore, this doesn’t change the situation much – employers already had the potential problem of, for example, dealing with keeping apart at work a victim and stalker subject to an intervention order.

In another sense, this is clearly an important change.  More types of workplace bullying are now criminalised, and public awareness of bullying issues will certainly have been increased by the publicity surrounding this Bill.  We can therefore expect a rise in complaints and the number of victims coming forward, and not just in Victoria, as other States and Territories have stalking laws that could cover at least some types of workplace bullying.”

Clearly the awareness of bullying in the workplace is already high but these laws are likely to make the management of this issue more complex and and challenging. Continue reading “Australian lawyers comment on Brodie’s Law”

Insurance company “fire-bomber” dies in custody

Almost 12 months ago, Paul Wayne Clarke “loaded a shopping trolley with jerry cans of fuel and set it alight inside a Darwin insurance office, injuring 15 people”.  Clarke died on 21 January 2011 after a failed suicide attempt whilst in custody.

On February 2010 media report provided a few details of Clarke’s circumstances:

“The bomber reportedly goes by the name “Bird” and is a former security guard who worked at a Darwin pub until being injured on the job in October 2007.

He allegedly blamed the insurer for loss of earnings that forced him to leave his three-bedroom home in Humpty Doo and move into a shipping container.”

The incident was enormously traumatic for the 15 staff and customers of the Territory Insurance Office (TIO) who were injured by the incident.

The Coroner will be investigating Clarke’s death but the motivation for Clarke’s initial actions against TIO will remain a mystery.  Continue reading “Insurance company “fire-bomber” dies in custody”