Questions beyond the “new view” of safety

Dr Tristan Casey has written an interesting discussion paper about clarifying the landscape of work health and safety innovation. According to Casey, innovation is the creation of new ideas, practices and more that add value for organisations over time. This integrates with one’s occupational health and safety (OHS) state of knowledge. Casey calls these WHS/OHS innovations as “new view” safety.

The SafetyAtWorkBlog has reported on many of these new concepts. Many concepts have great potential, but we must also examine the barriers to acceptance and implementation – the research to practice journey. Casey discusses some of those barriers.

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Australia’s Wellbeing Budget and Living Standards Framework is on its way

Australia’s new Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, shows an awareness of the importance of good mental health in Australia’s citizens and workers but his strategy, which remains in its infancy, has some problems.

In one of Chalmers’ first interviews after the Australian Labor Party won power last month, he was asked about the Budget he will be releasing in October 2022 (the same month as National Safe Work Month!):

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Safety (funding) differently

When Tony Abbott was the (Liberal) Prime Minister, he reduced the commonwealth grants program substantially as part of his austerity and “debt” and deficit” strategies. This resulted in defunding many occupational health and safety (OHS) support and research units of trade unions, industry associations, etc. OHS has been poorly served ever since. The new (Labor) government has an opportunity to resurrect some of these OHS units by allocating some level of funding and, perhaps, expanding it beyond the traditional consultation triumvirate.

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HR inching its way to an OHS epiphany

A new Human Resources (HR) article shows some promise in addressing the institutional factors that lead to poor mental health in workers.

The website for Human Resources Director asks, “Should HR be concerned about employee economic insecurity?” I would ask, “how can it not be?” given that Australian research over the last twenty years and international research since early last century has identified that job insecurity is one of several major factors in poor mental health for workers and other occupational health and safety (OHS) outcomes. HR should also be anticipating a renewed duty of care from the upcoming national OHS regulations on psychologically healthy workplaces.

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“can’t afford” means “don’t want to”

Richard Denniss, an economist with The Australia Institute, discusses economics differently from other economists. He will seldom discuss occupational health and safety (OHS). He rarely talks about industrial relations. Instead, he talks about the big picture by drawing on many sources and disciplines, which is why he is so interesting to listen to.

This week he was on a national book tour for his latest publication on the role of the State in the modern economy and some of his opinions connected with the management of workplace health and safety.

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HR and OHS remain “nice-to-haves.”

The recent HR/OHS article was an article originally intended to link to International Women’s Day regarding “female” business roles and influence. Coincidentally my social media feeds popped up a 2015 article from the Harvard Business Review entitled “Why We Love to Hate HR…and What HR Can Do About It“.

The author, Peter Capelli, reminds us that in the 19950s and 1960s Personnel Management was considered “the most glamourous area in business by executives” as it was considered integral to developing the business. Human Resources changed when an increasing number of managers were appointed from outside the organisation and the “full employment” of the 1970s reduced the perceived need for powerful HR departments. The HR role was reduced to essential services of hiring and retention.

Capelli suggested two strategies to regain influence, which are equally relevant to the occupational health and safety (OHS) professional:

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Is work health and safety “woke”?

Occupational health and safety (OHS) has always been progressive in that its purpose is to prevent harm to workers and people. It has lost its way sometimes and its effectiveness diluted at other times, but its core purpose has remained. At the moment, there is an ideological, political and cultural resistance to progressive structures and ideas that is often criticised as being “woke”. Woke has an evolving meaning, but it seems to mean well-intended but ineffective.

Recently Australian academic Carl Rhodes examined “woke capitalism” in a new book. Refreshingly Rhodes provides an analysis of woke capitalism rather than a rabid critique. OHS is not the focus of this book (when is it ever?), but his research and perspectives are relevant to how OHS is practiced and the level of influence we believe it deserves.

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