Addressing the invisible causes of visible harm

The trade union movement was instrumental in showing that workplace bullying was a pervasive problem in Australian workplaces.  Many Codes of Practice and guidances for workplace bullying and occupational violence were written shortly after the action by the Australian Council of Trade Unions almost two decades ago.  But, for some reason, although sexual harassment was mentioned in those early documents, it never received the attention in occupational health and safety (OHS) circles that, in hindsight, it should have.

Perhaps a more sustainable and effective strategy would be to focus on the “harassment” rather than the “sexual”, or in

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New inquiry into sexual harassment – an OHS opportunity and challenge

On June 20 2018, the Australian government announced a National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, claiming it to be a world-first. Sexual harassment is not an occupational health and safety (OHS) hazard in many ways BUT the psychological harm it can create is. The job of an OHS person is to encourage employers to reduce work-related harm through prevention, so we need to prevent sexual harassment, just as we do for all the work activities that contribute to poor psychological health and safety.

The macroeconomic costs of sexual harassment in the workplace may be of interest to politicians and business lobbyists but this can be a significant distraction from identifying ways to prevent psychological harm, which should be the most important legacy of this type of inquiry.

Addressing the OHS impacts of

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#MeToo, #TimesUp and #OHS

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Being International Women’s Day, the media is awash with articles about pay rates, gender equality and sexual harassment.  One of those articles is written by Sarah Ralph of Norton Rose Fullbright. Ralph provides a good summary of the current gender issues and recent media attention (may require registration but it’s free).  She makes several recommendations for how to reduce the risk of sexual harassment and unwanted media attention.  Below those recommendations are looked at from the occupational health and safety (OHS) perspective to see how OHS can help reduce the psychological harm. Continue reading “#MeToo, #TimesUp and #OHS”

“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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There is no such thing as a Cone of Silence, accept the reality

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At a recent seminar on managing serious workplace incidents, there was a brief discussion about how evidence is collected and controlled.  The response from the panel was that one should always assume that conversations are always being recorded or have the capacity to be.  A non-safety example of this appeared in The Age newspaper recently. It appears that someone recorded the Royal Australasian College of Surgeon’s examination process and the recording included discriminatory comments.  Two examiners have been stood down and the College is investigating the examination processes. Continue reading “There is no such thing as a Cone of Silence, accept the reality”