RUOK? Day is held in September each year in Australia. The workplace suicide awareness campaign has been very successful, but over time, I have observed a decline in effectiveness, certainly at the local communication level. It may be a victim of its own success as almost all awareness campaigns struggle to maintain their original freshness. Perhaps it is time for a change. Perhaps that change is being forced upon us.
New research into working in excessive heat concisely summarises the socioeconomic impacts but misses the obvious strategies to prevent or diminish these impacts. It also includes impacts on productivity, but heat and climate change are not in the current Australian business group discussions about productivity. Those groups could benefit from understanding Gwarda.
The Australian Labor Party (ALP) conference has endorsed the concept of the right-to-disconnect, according to an article in The Australian. Sadly, the reporting on the change has a dismissive tone on what is an attempt to address the increasing costs of mental health at work. Readily accessible and recent survey data on the right-to-disconnect could have been used for a fuller analysis.
Journalist Ewin Hannan wrote:
Recently the Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, addressed the National Press Club in Canberra. The AIGroup is one of the “go to” business groups, along with the Business Council of Australia and mining industry groups, that the business media knows will comment on anything when asked, and frequently when not asked. Willox’s August presentation was on Industrial Relations, but it also illustrates the workplace and political culture in which occupational health and safety (OHS) must operate.
Currently, many large Australian business groups are lobbying the federal government over its plans to introduce legislation to ensure that workers achieve the same pay rate for doing the same job as others. A feature of the full-page advertisement in the newspapers is that people should be able to receive more money or a higher rate of pay if they “work hard”. This phrase is never explained but may have implications for occupational health and safety (OHS).
This week the Victorian Government flagged changes to the workers’ compensation premiums and eligibility. This has generated outrage from business lobby groups and the trade unions, and as he is being criticised by both political extremes, Premier Dan Andrews believes his decision, i.e. being hated by everyone, is a winner.
The Age newspaper was one of the first to report (paywalled) on the announcement of these changes on May 19, 2023. Significantly it included a quote from Dr Mary Wyatt on the economic and social importance of injury prevention. Hers has been one of the few mentions of the role of good occupational health and safety (OHS) management.
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Recently a discussion of occupational health and safety (OHS) in Australia’s construction industry during COVID-19 lockdowns was published. “What’s it going to take? Lessons Learned from COVID-19 and worker mental health in the Australian construction industry” is thankfully “open access” and well worth reading for its strong and controversial OHS recommendations, but it could have paid more attention to the role of the employers or Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) in applying legislative OHS obligations and how their resistance continues to harm workers.