Culture, greed and safety heckles

More business “gems” from the Australian Financial Review (AFR).

The potential for corporate change from Australia’s Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry is fading fast. Back in July 2020, the Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported on an investigation by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) that found, according to the AFR’s headline, that Westpac bank’s culture was immature and reactive.

Safety culture, or an organisational culture that integrates safety, has been a running theme in Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) circles for several decades now but it has rarely gained traction. Partly this is due to the distraction presented by corporate wellbeing programs which address symptoms of ill-health and un-safety and provide a comfortable excuse for company executives who can then claim some action even if the results are dubious.

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Business nuggets from the Australian Financial Review

It is not possible to write as many occupational health and safety (OHS) articles as I would like to, and my newspaper clippings files are bulging by the time I get some time to tidy up. The Australian Financial Review (AFR) is an expensive business newspaper that often touches on OHS matters even though OHS may not be the core of the story. Below is a short discussion of many of those clippings from 2020. Most of the AFR articles are paywalled but can often be tracked down through other measures.

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The black sheep of safety leadership

Western Australia’s Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws are now in effect. The same arguments for and against were posed in Parliament and outside as they were in Queensland and Victoria, and the Australian Capital Territory well before that. The IM laws will face the same institutional hurdles to application and offer the same, nominal, deterrent effect.

But WA also prohibited insurance policies that cover the financial penalties applied by the Courts. Such policies may make good business sense in managing risk, but they also remove the pain and deterrence intended in the design and application of Work Health and Safety laws.

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More workplace bullshit, but in a good way

Bullshit is starting to gain some serious analysis with four researchers recently publishing “Confronting indifference toward truth: Dealing with workplace bullshit” in Business Horizons. One attraction of this research paper is its focus on workplace business communications and conversations, but it is almost impossible to read it without thinking of the recently ousted United States President and how lies and “fake news” have dominated international political discourse.

Another attraction is that it is not just an analysis but one that also suggests pathways to detect and reduce the bullshit. What I was unprepared for was to start to feel sympathy for the bullshitter.

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Half of One Percent Safer

This blog should be an indication that brevity does not come naturally to an occupational health and safety (OHS) professional. (Imagine the struggle of an OHS academic!!) Dr Andrew Sharman asked 137 OHS thinkers to provide a 500-word chapter each, essentially a page, about workplace health and safety. His new (very limited edition) book, “One Percent Safer“, includes text, cartoons, single paragraph quotes, graphics but most of all some much-needed wisdom. Not as much as one would have hoped, if you have been involved with OHS for a few years, but plenty for the newbie or, hopefully, a lot for the businessperson who struggles with this “safety stuff”.

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Work-related mental health remains contentious

This article is about SafeWorkNSW’s recently released Draft Code of Practice for Managing the Risks to Psychological Health, but it is not going to focus on the Code.  Instead the focus will be on the supplementary Explanatory Paper because this presents the rationale for the Code’s contents and, in many ways, is a more useful tool for occupational health and safety (OHS) discussions. However, just as the Code has structural and legislative limitations as part of its Purpose, the Explanatory Paper is a support document for submissions on the Draft Code and therefore has its own limitations.

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Change big things, little things benefit

I bought Genevieve Hawkins’ self-published book “Mentally at Work – Optimising Health and Business Performance through Connection” because I have met Genevieve at various Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) conferences and wanted to know her thoughts.

Her book is about an increasingly important element of OHS – psychological harm – and reinforces the Human Resources (HR) approach to mental health at work which is based around Leadership and Psychology. This HR perspective is the dominant approach to mental health at work in Australia, but it largely omits the organisational and cultural context of mental health. As such, the book will be popular with those whose perspectives it reinforces, but it misses some important OHS and research perspectives about harm prevention.

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