Discussion on the sexual harassment allegations against former High Court judge Dyson Heydon continue even though some Australian States’ media have returned to COVID19 clusters and football. On July 6, 2020, five hundred women in the legal profession published an open letter calling for
“… wider reforms to address the high incidence of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct in the legal profession”
The signatories call for an independent complaints body for the Australian judiciary and changes to the appointment of judges. What is missing is Prevention.
On Wednesday June 24 2020 at 1.30pm (AEST) I will be presenting my conference paper on the topic above. This is the first Australian Institute of Health and Safety conference to be conducted virtually and I am proud to be part of this year’s conference. As it is virtual, there is no limit on tickets so if you could not attend previous AIHS conferences, get to this one. Below is an extract from my paper:
The workplace fatality rates have been falling consistently for decades. Occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals seem to be busier than ever. So, the world must be safer than it has been in the past? Maybe. But this may not be the reality if we think a little deeper about the causes of harm and about the actions the OHS profession has applied.
Here is a typical graph showing the rate of workplace fatalities since 1985, when the modern OHS legislation was enacted in Victoria.
This week I found a research paper in my inbox called “How logical is safety? An institutional logics perspective on safety at work”. The Background and Objective were, respectively:
“Occupational incidents and accidents are still commonplace in the contemporary workplace, despite increased understandings of safety.”
“This article aims to yield new insights into safety-related thinking, decisions and behaviours through the application of an institutional logics perspective.”
As most readers do, I read something and try to link it with ideas, concepts and conversations we have been involved with in the past. My brain tried to fit the use of “institutional logics” with safety culture and then with organisational culture but it did not seem to fit, and I wondered whether I should bother with institutional logics.
Michael Tooma is probably the most prominent occupational health and safety (OHS) lawyer in Australia. His latest book is, a little pretentiously, called “Michael Tooma on Mental Health“, but it fits with the series of OHS-related publications he has written for Wolters Kluwer. Unusually for a lawyer, there are only two chapters that specifically discuss legislative obligations, and, in many ways, these are the least interesting.
Positive Mental Health
In the Introduction, Tooma goes out of his way to stress the positive benefits of work. He is critical of the current OHS approach to workplace stress writing that we seek a “Goldilocks” application of perfection when this is really subjectively determined by each worker. Tooma challenges this in a major way through the 2012 study by Keller and others:
On May 11 2020, the Australian Financial Review’s back page ran an article (paywalled)about how “corporates” are becoming aware of mental health risks due to the COVID19 disruption. It is a good article but also one that reveals the dominant misunderstanding about mental health at work and how to prevent it.