The coronavirus pandemic is an unexpected challenge for many employers and for workers. As this article from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation shows, there is confusion about the rights and duties of both parties at work.
Larry acted under his duty to not put himself at harm by raising his concern to his employer. The employer should have already determined that the workplace is safe and without risks to health and implemented control measures to reduce the risk of cross-infection. Guidance on how to do this has existed for several weeks.
Last week the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) launched its Body of Knowledge Chapter on Ethics in Melbourne to a small group of occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals. Participants were asked to outline an ethical challenge they had faced as OHS professionals.
In that same week, WorkSafe Victoria issued a media release that showed a poor follow-through by a business on advice from an OHS professional.
Mental health and burnout are workplace hazards with which many companies and workers are struggling. No matter what international or national organisations say about the hazard, it remains difficult to implement positive change at the workplace level. It is not helped by mainstream media articles that claim to prevent burnout and then provide very little information about how to prevent it.
A recent article in The Times, and reproduced today in The Australian, written by John Naish, is an example. The original article was headlined “How to prevent burnout at work”. This was retitled “Workplace burnout can lead to numerous serious health issues — and even premature death” in The Australian” (both are paywalled).
In occupational health and safety (OHS), there is evidence and then there is evidence. Regardless of the type of evidence, there is not as much as there should be. Many companies and organisations in Australia are required to publicly release annual reports that identify their financial status. Increasingly non-financial criteria, like OHS performance, is being included in these reports but why isn’t this mandatory and why isn’t it of a consistent type? Late on 2019, the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) looked at the issue of OHS reporting, with some assistance from EY.
ACSI’s CEO, Louise Davidson illustrates the problem in her Foreword to the report:
“Almost one third of ASX200 companies provide their investors and other stakeholders no information on health and safety performance. For the companies that do provide some information, the disclosure often provides no insight into how many severe incidents occurred…….”page 6
The prevention of psychological harm generated by sexual harassment has been a recurring theme in the SafetyAtWorkBlog. It is heartening to see similar discussions appearing in labour law research.
An article, published in the Australian Journal of Labour Law, called “Preventing Sexual Harassment in Work: Exploring the Promise of Work Health and Safety Laws” written by Belinda Smith, Melanie Schleiger and Liam Elphick strengthens the role that occupational health and safety (OHS) laws can play in preventing sexual harassment and its harm.