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.
As with most political party conferences, occupational health and safety (OHS) is a fringe issue. OHS or safety is sometimes mentioned in the big political speeches but often as an afterthought or obligatory mention that is rarely explored to the extent it deserves. The Australian Labor Party (ALP) recently held its national conference in Brisbane. Work health and safety was mentioned.
The ALP Conference is not intended to change Australian government policies. Its aim is to review and revise the ALP Party platform; it drops what may be redundant and improves the policy platform’s relevance. The conference may indicate party member concerns to the parliamentary members, but the government’s positions are for the parliamentary members to decide.
It should come as no surprise that the ALP has again refrained from banning the import and use of engineered stone even though the silicosis risks are well-established.
Professors Helen Lingard and Michelle Turner have just published a book that was long in development called “Work, Health and Wellbeing in the Construction Industry“. The best advice for reading this book is, for most readers, to ignore the construction context. This book is extremely topical for all industries in Australia as it considers gender, well-being, psychosocial hazards, working hours, resilience and more, but most importantly health.
Recently a discussion of occupational health and safety (OHS) in Australia’s construction industry during COVID-19 lockdowns was published. “What’s it going to take? Lessons Learned from COVID-19 and worker mental health in the Australian construction industry” is thankfully “open access” and well worth reading for its strong and controversial OHS recommendations, but it could have paid more attention to the role of the employers or Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) in applying legislative OHS obligations and how their resistance continues to harm workers.
The Housing Industry Association (HIA) is an effective government lobbyist for its members who can be relied on to make a submission to whatever opportunity the governments offer. The HIA does not provide details of membership numbers or names, but it does list its sponsors and partners. Recently HIA made a submission on “the prohibition on the use of engineered stone”. Its position held few surprises.
Perhaps also unsurprising is Kate Cole’s justification for a ban on engineered stone.
Australian trade unions are in a difficult position on the matter of workplace mental health. New regulations require employers and, to a lesser extent, workers to act on a positive duty to prevent psychosocial harm. However, how does one achieve the necessary changes without being financially penalised?
Recently, the Victorian Secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), John Setka, granted The Australian newspaper’s Workplace Editor, Ewin Hannan, an exclusive interview (paywalled) in which occupational health and safety (OHS) was discussed.
Every year the Australian government releases a budget explaining what it plans to do over the next 12 months or longer. Business groups and trade unions often release documents submitted to the government, although whether the government requests this is unclear. Recently the Master Builders of Australia (MBA) sent through its submission (not yet publicly available). It has some interesting comments on the responsibility for occupational health and safety (OHS) and responsibility.