It’s National Safe Work Month in Australia this October. This year’s theme is SafeTea** emphasising the importance of involving everyone in work health and safety (WHS) discussions by encouraging workplaces to have a safety chat over a cup of tea. This started me thinking about safety conversations. Is the Safety Moment mentioned at the start of every meeting ritual impactful, engaging, behaviour changing or is just eroding safety credibility?
RUOK? Day is held in September each year in Australia. The workplace suicide awareness campaign has been very successful, but over time, I have observed a decline in effectiveness, certainly at the local communication level. It may be a victim of its own success as almost all awareness campaigns struggle to maintain their original freshness. Perhaps it is time for a change. Perhaps that change is being forced upon us.
Occupational health and safety (OHS) has long been stripped of emotion through an emphasis on evidence, finances, compliance, objectivity, rationality, auditing and key performance indicators. The tide is turning slightly with increased attention on mental health, respect, psychosocial factors, and regaining a professional humanity. This OHS approach remains on the fringes of OHS as the dominance of profit from decades of neoliberal economics and politics continues.
But perhaps what the OHS profession needs is to connect with Love.
Recently the annual Truck Drivers’ Memorial was held at Alexandra in Central Victoria. Worksafe Victoria’s Executive Director of Health and Safety, Dr Narelle Beer (pictured above at the memorial), spoke at the event. Her presence was welcome and important, for it reinforces the occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators’ commitment to the safety of truck drivers and not just to the risks associated with the loads there are carting.
Dr Beer said little that was new, but that is okay, as WorkSafe’s presence at workers’ memorials is about reassurance and remembrance. There were elements of her speech that should be noted by employers, and that also illustrate the difficult enforcement position of such organisations.
Seminars on workplace mental health must always offer solutions and not only (always) the solution that the host wants to promote. Occupational health and safety (OHS) needs to be more altruistic (Yes, it may be hypocrisy from a subscription blog). Recently I spoke on the issue of psychosocial hazards at work and offered this slide on “What can be done?” [Note: This article discusses suicide]Continue reading “What to do about workplace mental health? Talk, Listen, Examine”
Occupational health and safety (OHS) has many myths, as do many other business disciplines. This is particularly concerning in a discipline that advocates evidence-based decision-making and pushes for peer-reviewed independent research. Sometimes these myths relate to using gym balls as office chairs or back belts or “safe lifting techniques” to reduce manual handling risks or, and this is one of my own suspicions, ankle-high safety boots that reduce the risk of ankle injuries. There are also mixed messages about sit-stand desks. (Counterarguments welcome in the comments below)
The United States seems to be in the early stages of an urban myth about police overdosing after accidental exposure to fentanyl, although this has been cooking since at least 2021. The nature of social media and the internet suggests that sometime soon, this accusation or experience will appear in Australia. Various US–based media have looked at this occupational hazard, with the latest being National Public Radio (NPR) on May 16, 2023.Continue reading “A new unicorn – the creation of a work health and safety myth”
All occupational health and safety (OHS) advocates should be reading the work of Jordan Barab. His latest article on “blaming the workers” for their own incidents is a great example of his writing. The article also illustrates one of the things about OHS that really gets up the noses of employers – if we don’t blame the workers, we have to blame the employers. An Australian answer to the situation would be Yeah, Nah.