The latest report/history of occupational health and safety (OHS) in Victoria and the role of the OHS regulators written by Barry Naismith was released last week. (Available HERE for a short time) There are few histories written, and those are primarily written through the legal and legislative prism. Naismith was an employee of the OHS regulator during the period of this publication (as was I). Localised and recent histories are rare, especially in topics like OHS. Yet, these perspectives are vital for new entrants to the OHS sector to understand the experiences of their immediate forebears and, perhaps more importantly, to understand the current priorities of OHS regulators.
A new book on workplace psychological hazards and laws has been published. The book “Managing Psychosocial Hazards and Work-Related Stress in Today’s Work Environment – International Insights for US Organizations” written by Ellen Pinkus Cobb, has a similar format to her coverage of international sexual harassment laws in a previous publication. Many occupational health and safety-related books written in the United States suffer from American parochialism. Cobb’s book is written for US organisations to show what workplace health and safety achievements are possible. The book is a very good summary of international changes in workplace psychosocial hazards.
Over the last two years or so, occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals seemed to have been the go-to people for handling the workplace impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Whether that is fair or not is debatable, but it is likely to repeat reality as workplaces continue to face labour shortages, production and supply disruption and variable exposure to the virus. At the moment, many politicians are uncertain about how to proceed. Employers need to have an operational plan, but they, or their OHS advisers, also need to step back occasionally and look at the larger context.
That step-back perspective is just what Dyani Lewis has done in a small but useful book called “Unvaxxed – Trust, Truth and the Rise of Vaccine Outrage“.
We need to seek alternative perspectives to better understand ourselves and our place in the world. In 2020,Takenori Mishiba wrote about comparative perspectives of workplace mental health laws. The book has been published in a more affordable paperback edition very recently. The attraction of this book is that Australia was not part of Mishiba’s research.
On the first page, Mishiba states that:
“…there is currently no precise legal definition of mental health.”
This alone should generate great concern in the occupational health and safety (OHS) discipline.
Ellen Pinkos Cobb is building an interesting library of books on sexual harassment. Next month sees the release of “Managing Psychosocial Hazards and Work-Related Stress in Today’s Work Environment – International Insights for U.S. Organizations“, but one of her previous titles from 2020 is also enjoyable. Cobb published “International Workplace Sexual Harassment Laws and Developments for the Multinational Employer“. This comparative study is an excellent resource, even though the legal environment is changing rapidly.
Recently the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) released a chapter of its Body of Knowledge on Ethics. But rather than a discussion of the role of occupational health and safety (OHS) in modern society, it focussed on the ethics of the OHS professional. This is a valid perspective but one of limited relevance to most of the community or to the market for OHS services. A broader consideration of OHS and ethics, one that assists in understanding what is expected of having a Duty of Care, is still required.
Professor Andrew Hopkins‘ latest book “Sacrificing Safety – Lessons for Chief Executives” complements Queensland’s Board of Inquiry into the Grosvenor mine fire in which five workers were severely burnt, a significant workplace incident for which the company, Anglo American, will not be prosecuted. Hopkins explains that the Board of Inquiry chose not to investigate the organisational causes of the incident; a situation this book seeks to redress.
The book starts with a bang in the Introduction, with a paragraph that will stay with me for some time due to its blunt honesty: