HWSA on psychological health at work

The Heads of Workplace Safety Authorities (HWSA) is a strange concoction. It operates separately from Safe Work Australia but has some overlapping memberships. According to SWA, HWSA:

“is made up of representatives from work health and safety regulators across Australia and New Zealand. They work together to promote and implement best practice in work health and safety in the areas of policy and legislative matters, education and enforcement. Our CEO attends HWSA meetings as an observer.”

In March this year, SafetyAtWorkBlog put some questions to HWSA about psychological risks in the workplace, a topic that has heated up over the last couple of years. The intention was to obtain an idea about HWSA’s “best practice” perspective. The responses were okay but limited, as one can see below.

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Australia’s mining sector can avoid becoming the next institutional pariah

Around a decade ago, parts of the Australian rail construction industry introduced the Pegasus Card. The intent was to have a single portal through which a worker’s competencies and eligibility to work could be verified. It evolved into the Rail Industry Worker Card in existence today. Pegasus remains in parts of the mining sector.

I was reminded of the Pegasus Card when I read the recent West Australian report into sexual harassment in the mining sector, Enough is Enough. One of its recommendations, Number 3, was that:

“The industry must explore ways to prevent perpetrators of serious sexual harassment simply finding reemployment on other sites and in other companies. This should involve:
– thorough exploration of an industry-wide workers’ register or other mechanism such as industry-wide accreditation, taking into account natural justice considerations and perhaps modelled on the Working With Children Card;…..

“industry-wide workers’ register”? Isn’t that what the Pegasus card helps to manage?

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Plants, cake and mental health

On mental health, a clinical psychologist, Dr Sanah Ahsan wrote in The Guardian recently that:

“…. I’ve seen first hand how we are failing people by locating their problems within them as some kind of mental disorder or psychological issue, and thereby depoliticising their distress.”

The Guardian, 6 September 2022

This perspective, enlightened for psychologists, is an established position for the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) advocates. But OHS advocates have been traditionally weak and sometimes timid outside of the trade union movement. Most employers will pay more attention to the OHS position on mental health when it is spoken by one of their own or by a more respected professional.

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Should a company that killed two workers receive a $2 million government contract?

In November last year, Pipecon was found guilty of breaching its occupational health and safety (OHS) duties concerning the deaths of two of the company’s workers in and from a trench collapse. An offence to which the company pleaded guilty. (Details of the incident and prosecution can be found HERE – search for Pipecon). The Ballarat Council has awarded the company a road construction project valued at over $2 million. Should the Council have done so? How does this decision affect the deterrence message that OHS prosecutions are supposed to generate? What does this say about the criteria used in procuring services?

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Traditional suicide prevention strategies struggle for relevance

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Many organisations are and will be, releasing information about suicides but not really the prevention of suicides, more the management of potential suicides. It is a curious international day as it is almost a warm-up to Mental Health Day (and, in some places, Month).

This week Suicide Prevention Australia (SPA) released a report based on a survey of 283 responses, the majority from members of SPA. It’s not a representative survey, but it gained a fair bit of media attention. It also raises consideration of the meaning of a “whole-of-government” approach and the role of Regulations in preventing suicides.

Regardless of the peculiar survey sample, the media release accompanying offered a statement that should have all mental health and suicide prevention professionals reassessing their strategies.

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Webinar of insight and update

Recently 700 people registered for a webinar conducted by Herbert Smith Freehills on work health and safety reforms, primarily on psychosocial risks at work. These risks were presented in various inquiries into sexual harassment, fly-in fly-out work practices but also generated new regulations, guidances and codes.

Steve Bell spoke about the responses from occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators to these issues and said:

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Major omissions from business perspective before the Jobs and Skills Summit

Next month the Australian government is conducting a “Jobs and Skills Summit“. Such consultative events have been held every so often for decades but usually after a new government is sworn in and after the previous one was in power for too long or lost its way. Such summits are seen as ways of reconnecting with disaffected and disempowered industry associations, trade unions and other organisations with the ear of the incoming government.

One of the most vocal industry associations is the Business Council of Australia. The BCA has existed since 1983. Its Wikipedia entry lists its large corporate membership, providing context to its policies and positions. On August 15 2022, its CEO Jennifer Westacott had an opinion piece, “What a Jobs Summit ‘win’ would look like“, published in the Australian Financial Review, but with a different headline. Workplace safety was mentioned in passing but is hiding in the subtext elsewhere.

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