The challenge of preventing harm beyond just “primary prevention”

Fay Calderone’s article in HRDaily on workplace sexual harassment and her responses to some questions from SafetyAtWorkBlog illustrate several points of difference between the usual Legal/HR approach to the management and prevention of workplace risks and the application of the occupational health and safety (OHS) approach. These points of difference are discussed below.

Leadership discussion, policies and training

The prevention of harm is a core principle of occupational health and safety. OHS professionals strive to eliminate hazards at the earliest opportunity and apply the precautionary principle as often as possible. Prevention is aimed at detecting early indications or precursors of hazards, such as those occurring in a Near Miss.

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OHS, sexual harassment, HR and the pursuit of prevention

HRDaily unlocked an article concerning workplace sexual harassment on March 6 2020. The article was written by lawyer Fay Calderone and SafetyAtWorkBlog sought clarification from her on a number of points.

Some of the issues raised in the original article and Calderone’s responses will be discussed in a secondary article.

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The concept of “Coercive Control” should be applied to workplace violence

“Coercive control” is getting attention in New South Wales in relation to domestic violence but there are similarities to workplace behaviours such as sexual harassment and bullying.

The Chief Psychiatrist of Victoria’s “guideline and practice resource: family violence” says

“Family violence is understood as a pattern of repeated and
coercive control, aiming to control another person’s thoughts, feelings and actions.”

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The next gig job must be safer and healthier

A man in different kind of occupations. Credit:
bowie15

A lot of focus is currently on casual workers as their jobs disappear due to the responses to the COVID19 coronavirus. Australia has around 2.6 million of them and there are many more workers who may be classified as Part Time but operate on uncertain rosters and are, in reality, as precarious as casual employees. Occupational health and safety (OHS) is struggling to address the hazards presented by modern variations of precarious work, such as gig economy workers, because it, and government economic and employment policy more generally, is structured on the assumption of Full Time Employment (FTE) with work occurring mainly from nine to five, on weekdays with weekends off.

Consideration of precarious worker OHS may seem a lesser priority at the moment as many of us are quarantined or quarantine by choice but at some point, hopefully, within the next twelve months, business will resume. However, that business model and structure is unlikely to be the same. Indeed, it should not be same as the risk profile for all businesses and the community generally has changed. So, let’s have a look at some of the recent thinking about precarious work and the OHS risks so that we can build a better, safer model.

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COVID19 and the management of change

People wearing masks in Little India Mustafa Center Singapore Covid-19 Coronavirus

It is very hard to write about any occupational health and safety (OHS) issue in this time of a global pandemic. Many of the workplace hazards continue to exist but in a different context and, of course, the duty of care on both employers and workers continues wherever work is being done. Australians, understandably, have an insular focus at the moment, but there is some benefit from looking at how national disruption has been handled elsewhere in the recent past. COVID19 is not SARS, but Singapore’s action in 2003 is useful in showing how change can be managed. This change management is likely to be a more integral part of effective OHS management for all Australian businesses once the pandemic declines.

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