Australia’s trade union movement has been at the forefront of many of the occupational health and safety (OHS) changes, especially workplace stress and bullying. Other than Industrial Manslaughter laws, its most recent campaign targeted to a workplace hazard has revolved around work-related gendered violence. Last week WorkSafe Victoria released a guide to employers on “work-related gendered violence including sexual harassment”. The advice in this guide is good but does not go far enough and is less helpful than it could have been.
A recent court case over workers’ compensation gained a great deal of media attention in Australia because the case related to the employment status of a contestant on a reality television show. (Outside of workplace deaths the last media occupational health and safety (OHS) frenzy concerns a public servant being injured during sex.) Commentators left and right were both chuckling at the latest court decision and being alarmist about it setting a precedent. Finally a newspaper and online article has spoken of the case sensibly.
Nicole Prince, an OHS professional, competed in a reality program about house renovations. She and her partner were portrayed on the show as the nasty couple, a role that most reality TV shows look for and/or create. After leaving the show, Prince argued that she could be considered an employee of the broadcaster, Channel 7, and so was entitled to workers compensation for the psychological distress that resulted from her treatment by Channel 7, and especially on social media.
There is a difference between a conference and a scientific meeting. The latter, like the current meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine (ANZSOM), provides evidence. The former tries to provide evidence but is often “infiltrated” by salespeople or the evidence is of a lesser quality. Both are avenues for gaining information and sometimes the gaining of wisdom.
Day 1 of ANZSOM’s annual scientific meeting was heavy on overhead slides, graphs, Venn diagrams, flowcharts and at least two appearances of photos of Donald Rumsfeld! There was a curious thread in several presentations – the role of non-occupational factors on workplace hazards and interventions. This bordered on a discussion of political science and its relevance to occupational health and safety (OHS). It was a discussion that is rarely heard outside of the basement of the Trades Halls and the challenging questions from die-hard communists and unionists, but it was an important one. Some time soon we deserve a one-day seminar on the politics of workplace health and safety so that we can better understand what we mean by the lack of political will when we whinge about the slow pace of change. (There will be more on this theme in the exclusive interview with Professors Maureen Dollard and Sally Ferguson soon)
There are a few occupational health and safety (OHS) matters in Australia that happened in the last week that are of note. SafetyAtWorkBlog has put together a quick list of those matters of interest.
Big Mental Health Challenge
“The Australian Capital Territory has appointed its first “dedicated psychological health officer [who] will equip workplaces with the tools and resources needed to support the social and emotional wellbeing of working Canberrans.
The psychological health officer will provide employees, managers and supervisors with support such as information sessions, accessible resources and training programs. WorkSafe ACT inspectors will also receive training and access to ongoing mentoring for responding to psychological hazards.”
In October 2018, the Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported (paywalled) on an occupational health and safety (OHS) investigation into overwork and staff fatigue being conducted by WorkSafe Victoria. The AFR has followed this with a report on June 6 2019 (paywalled) by its Legal Affairs Editor, Michael Pelly. It is a positive article about how the law firm, King, Wood & Mallesons (KWM) has improved its OHS performance since October last year. However there is much between the lines that hints at the OHS approach used and how limited it is.