Take a good hard look at your business and do something about it

The Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) published an opinion piece on January 20, 2020 concerning working hours in the medical profession and the risk of mental health and suicide from working excessive hours. It uses the Japanese problem of “karoshi” to illustrate the severity of the workplace risks but it misses a couple of points.

It references the amendments to Victoria’s Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislation that introduced an offence of Industrial Manslaughter but implies that this amendment changes the duty of care expected of employers and changes a worker’s right to a safe and healthy workplace.

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OHS law could prevent the psychological harm of sexual harassment

The prevention of psychological harm generated by sexual harassment has been a recurring theme in the SafetyAtWorkBlog. It is heartening to see similar discussions appearing in labour law research.

An article, published in the Australian Journal of Labour Law, called “Preventing Sexual Harassment in Work: Exploring the Promise of Work Health and Safety Laws” written by Belinda Smith, Melanie Schleiger and Liam Elphick strengthens the role that occupational health and safety (OHS) laws can play in preventing sexual harassment and its harm.

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Harm prevention gets short shrift from Aigroup report

The Australian Industry Group has released research into workplace mental health conducted by Griffith University. The AiGroup claims it is a

“… a landmark study into mental health initiatives taken in local workplaces”.

It is far from it. Workplace mental health will only become more important in 2020 with reports due from the Productivity Commission and the Australian Human Rights Commission. Sadly the AiGroup report gives inadequate attention to the prevention of work-related psychological harm even though this has been identified by some Australian mental health experts as the most cost-effective and sustainable business strategy.

The most obvious problem with the report is with this statement:

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2020 OHS plans for Queensland mines

Open cut rock quarry on the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia. Source: zstockphotos

The Queensland Government’s “Safety Reset” of its mining industry was a remarkable achievement in 2019. The government intends to be equally active in occupational health and safety (OHS) in 2020, according to a media release dated 18 January 2020. Below are its “current and upcoming health and safety reforms”:

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Good article ……. And?

There is an article doing the rounds of some of the American newspapers called “Shaping culture to be psychologically healthy” by Bill Howatt. It is a solid article but illustrates some of the limited thinking common to advocates of psychological health in workplaces.

Howatt writes about establishing and managing a suitable culture through leadership, education, awareness and other activities. But organisational cultures operate within a larger pool of cultural contexts and, most importantly, business structures.

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