“so we know we’ve had laws, but why haven’t we had change?”

Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, has been prominent in recent seminars about sexual harassment, particularly in the entertainment industry.  In February 2018, Jenkins spoke at a seminar in Melbourne hosted by Screen Producers  Australia and provided strong advice on how businesses can control sexual harassment.

Jenkins began her presentation with an uncomfortable reminder that business has been lax in addressing unlawful workplace behaviour.

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When workplace behaviour becomes insidious

In previous writings about gender and occupational health and safety (OHS), the work of Jerald Greenberg was mentioned, particularly his book “Insidious Workplace Behaviour”.  His perspective seems even more pertinent today as many of us are weaving our way cautiously through communications and interactions with our work colleagues as we clarify what is acceptable behaviour so as to avoid offence or accusations of bullying and sexual harassment.

SafetyAtWorkBlog’s position is that sexual harassment is part of OHS and safety management systems due to the potential physical and psychological harm, in a similar way that bullying became an OHS concern.

Greenberg researches organisational behaviour and has written about corporate misdeeds and misbehaviour but he identified many precursors to some of these incidents.

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Commenters split on who manages sexual harassment

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A recent SafetyAtWorkBlog article promoted in LinkedIn has generated many responses, mostly from people who have not read the whole original article, about whether sexual harassment is or is not an occupational health and safety (OHS) matter.  Below is a summary of some of those comments. Continue reading “Commenters split on who manages sexual harassment”

McLachlan accusations place more focus on the OHS of sexual harassment

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Prominent Australian actor, Craig McLachlan, has been accused of indecent assault by cast members of the Rocky Horror Show, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Fairfax media (paywalled).  One actress, Erika Heynatz, has identified this behaviour as a workplace safety issue:

“Heynatz went immediately to the head mechanic, whose job it was to ensure safety. She recalled that he was laughing “uncomfortably”. But she told him that McLachlan had to be spoken to, that this was a safety issue.”

Articles in both media outlets relate the anguish that actors felt after the alleged events and how this affected their work performance. Continue reading “McLachlan accusations place more focus on the OHS of sexual harassment”

Sexual harassment may be an OHS issue but what priority should it receive?

One online news site in Australia has suggested that sexual harassment is an occupational health and safety (OHS) issue.  At first blush, it should be.  Sexual harassment can create mental ill-health and can certainly be harmful. But from the early days of discussions about workplace bullying and occupational violence in Australia, sexual harassment has been consciously excluded from OHS.

Is It or Isn’t It?

Some of the best discussion on bullying, harassment and violence was written by Dr Clare Mayhew for the Australian Institute of Criminology in 2000.  These included a practical handbook on prevention. (It’s peculiar that some of the most perceptive works on OHS occur outside the OHS profession.  Well perhaps not so surprising.)  In the handbook, Mayhew points out that harassment has always been an element of workplace bullying but excludes sexual harassment from her discussion:

“The Australian Institution of Criminology believes that prevention, rather than post-incident reaction, is the key to improved outcomes. However, the handbook needs to be adapted specifically to each organisation for best results. The discussions exclude activity that could be described as sexual harassment, which is extensively dealt with elsewhere.” (page 1)

This position is reflective of the OHS literature yet, on reflection, this position may have been wrong for it contributed to a fractured approach to managing workplace psychosocial hazards. 

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