Executive Director says WorkSafe has been reactive on workplace mental health

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Ian Forsyth, Health and Safety Executive Director, for WorkSafe Victoria spoke at a breakfast seminar on 7 February 2012.  As a report on what WorkSafe has been doing and what they plan to do in 2012, it was reasonable but there were several issues that raised eyebrows or confused some in the audience.

Workplace Bullying

Ian Forsyth spent some time speaking about the importance of workplace bullying, repeatedly stressing that most calls to WorkSafe about bullying do not fit the definition that would allow WorkSafe to act.  No mention was made of the divergent views on workplace bullying coming through the public comment phase of the draft national code on workplace bullying over the last few months.

Several times Forsyth stressed that there were other avenues for action or appeal on matters that do not fit the WorkSafe definition, such as the Fair Work Ombudsman and other authorities.  This is the reality but the comments provide no real solution to handling the thousands of calls WorkSafe receives on workplace bullying each year.   Continue reading “Executive Director says WorkSafe has been reactive on workplace mental health”

What makes a good job? What makes a safe job?

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Dame Carol Black

The High Risk OHS Summit 2012 (why it’s high risk, no one seems to know) started with a bang with a detailed presentation from Dame Carol Black, a major instigator of work health reforms in the United Kingdom.  Dame Black was able to provide several case studies and some data that provided a fresh perspective on what work and health and safety means to the British workers.  For instance, she stated that of those employed in the UK, 26% are working with a health condition or disability. Black also said that 2.4% are off sick at any one time

Black also adds the personal to her presentations and admitted that she had not been aware of what makes “a good job” until beginning her review over five years ago. It is a terrific question to ask one’s self and colleagues.  What makes a good job?

David Gregory of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry also spoke at the conference and, as usually, was very cautious in what he said and how he said it. Continue reading “What makes a good job? What makes a safe job?”

An example of how safety can be misperceived as expensive

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Today I received an email that had the intriguing heading of:

“Do you fully understand what the harmonisation laws mean to your organisation?”

As I don’t “fully understand” harmonisation and spammers don’t usually use OHS as a spam tool, I opened the email.  It was a promotion for an upcoming conference called Supply Chain and Logistics Safety 2012.  The harmonisation of Australia’s OHS was not in the title but was mentioned in the email body.

“Although some states appear to be delaying their timeline for harmonisation implementation, businesses in reality can’t afford to wait. You will not only need to meet the regulation, but devise strategies to prevent your bottom line being impacted.”

No one wants an impacted bottom line (there’s a cream for that) and my unease increased by the writer implying that the two major issues of OHS harmonisation was to comply – “to meet the regulation” – and to protect profits.   Continue reading “An example of how safety can be misperceived as expensive”

Professor Niki Ellis speaks about OHS, CSR and resilience

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Next week the National Comcare Conference is held in Melbourne Australia.  One of the keynote speakers at the conference is Professor Niki Ellis, a prominent Australian OHS researchers and consultant  who is also heading up the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR).

On a sunny September 5 2011 I was able to spend half and hour with Niki at a noisy cafe outside Victoria’s State Library talking about:

  • The profile of OHS is Australia as a profession
  • The importance of a practical application for OHS research (what Niki refers to as “interventionist research”)
  • The need for innovation in tertiary institutions
  • The legacy of Dame Carol Black’s UK report “Working for a Healthier Tomorrow
  • The challenge for OHS professionals to cope  with emerging psychosocial hazards
  • The role and importance of Corporate Social Responsibility to workplace health and safety
  • The deficiencies of applying resilience to workplace mental health issues

Kevin Jones

Concerns increase as Australia’s OHS law changes loom

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Conference organisers IQPC started its two-day Safety in Design, Engineering and Construction conference on 16 August 2011.  The most prominent speaker on day one was Barry Sherriff of law firm, Norton Rose.  Sherriff spoke about OHS harmonisation‘s impact on the Australian construction industry.

Over time Australian labour lawyers generally have moved from saying that Victorian companies have little to worry about from the new laws expected on 1 January 2012 to quite alarming suggestions of challenges to do with contractor management and consultation.  Part of this modification of advice may be due to the increased analysis of company OHS systems.  Sherriff said that he has been surprised how many companies ask for advice about compliance under the new laws and yet are not complying under the existing OHS laws.

On the issue of consultation, Sherriff identified the “coordination of activities” and managing the “flow of information” as a critical element in the new OHS model laws.  But he stressed that such obligations have existed in OHS laws in many Australian States for sometime but are now more overtly stated. Continue reading “Concerns increase as Australia’s OHS law changes loom”