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.
Discussion on the report into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces went missing last weekend which included International Women’s Day. March 8 generalised much of the discussion on the need for new approaches to feminism, wages and gender equity. This is not to say that organisations had forgotten about the National Inquiry’s Final Report or the occupational health and safety (OHS) context, but few were as blunt about the issue as broadcaster Virginia Trioli and workplace lawyer Liberty Sanger on ABC radio this week.
Late yesterday the Queensland Minister for Industrial Relations, Grace Grace, issued a media statement that clarified the work health and safety (WHS) prosecution process that is likely to apply to Ardent Leisure, the owner of Dreamworld. Significantly she clarified the Coroner’s Findings and the misinformation of some media outlets. Ardent Leisure has issued a statement in support of safety improvements.
In late January 2020, the Australian Health Minister, Greg Hunt, announced new funding for suicide prevention programs. As the announcement occurred during the increasing concerns over the coronavirus, media attention to the funding announcement was minimal and this overlooked an important shift in suicide prevention strategies.
Six months ago the Prime Minister appointed Christine Morgan as his Suicide Prevention Adviser. As part of the funding announcement, Morgan spoke about a major change to suicide prevention strategies that acknowledges that not all suicides result from mental illness – a reality that has been emphasised by some Australian researchers for over several years. Significantly Christine Morgan is reported in Newscorp media as saying:
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has released a media statement based on new research into mental illness and suicidal ideation of junior doctors. Given that the relationship between excessive working hours and mental health is increasingly becoming an occupational health and safety (OHS) issue, SafetyAtWorkBlog sought some clarification to some of the quotes in the statement attributed to AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone.
The January 23 2020 media release quoted Bartone saying:
“A healthy medical profession is vital to patient safety and quality of care, and the sustainability of the medical workforce,… Significant evidence already exists to show that doctors are at greater risk of psychological distress and stress-related problems. This new research provides clear additional insight into how the workplace can affect the health and wellbeing of the medical profession. Long working hours, unpredictable rosters, overtime, being on-call, and night shifts are significant systemic barriers to the maintenance of physical and mental health and wellbeing. There is an established link between working more hours and having higher rates of anxiety, depression, and psychological distress.”
These are the questions put to the AMA:
- The media release lists several “systemic barriers” that are generating poor psychological health. It seems that most of these barriers would be removed or weakened if hospitals had more staff. Is the psychological harm a result of insufficient staffing levels? And is this a result of underinvestment in hospitals?
- Is the fatigue, psychological harm, etc. a result of trying to make do with the available resources? If so, what new income or labour sources are being sought?
- Why do you think the trend towards safe working hours stalled?