There are strong parallels between the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces and others addressing workplace issues, such as the Victorian Royal Commission into Mental and the Productivity Commission’s mental health inquiry, but there is also a connection to the Royal Commission into Banking and Financial Services which has focused the minds of some of Australia’s corporation s and leaders into examining their own workplace cultures and, for some, to reassess the role and application of capitalism.
This is going to become even more of a critical activity as the National Sexual Harassment Inquiry completes its report prior to its release in the first month or two of 2020.
Cultural analysis, and change, is often best undertaken first in a microcosm or specific social context. The experiences of sexual harassment of rural women in Australia is one such context, a context examined in detail by Dr Skye Saunders in her book “Whispers from the Bush“.
On the corner of Lygon and Victoria Streets in Melbourne is a monument to the 8 Hour Day. This represents a social structure of work that equates to
- Eight hours of work,
- Eight hours of recreation,
- Eight hours of sleep,
The concept started in Australia in the mid-1800s and was intended to reduce exploitation and abuse of workers, many of whom were children.
The intent was to establish, what we would now call, a work/life balance structure with the recognition that work is required to earn a living, sleep is required to rejuvenate the body, preparing it for work, and recreation was social time, time with one’s family, exercise, all sorts of personal and social activities.
Today that structure is an “ideal” rather than a reality.
The 20th Congress of the International Ergonomics Association in Florence Italy recently concluded. Australia’s Professor David Caple attended and brought the latest research into the benefits of sit/stand desks to the September meeting of the Central Safety Group in Melbourne. Caple said that evidence remains confusing on this increasingly popular piece of office furniture and echoed the modern approach to occupational health and safety (OHS) matters – look at what the work involves and how and where people do it.
Caple explained how large companies are moving away from open-plan offices to those designed around “activity-based work or
In 2008 the brothers Brafman wrote “Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior“. They tell the story of Ori Brafman being told, on his first day in his MBA course in Tel Aviv in the 1980s, that
“People aren”t rational.”
In my 1990s tertiary course into OHS Risk Management, we were still being referred to the 1965 book, “The Rational Manager“. Occupational health and safety (OHS) seems to still be based on an assumption of rationality in OHS management systems, decision-making and working yet it does not take too much exposure to the reality of work to understand that we must anticipate irrationality.
Over the last couple of weeks in Australia, the arguments over the safety of quad bikes (sometimes called All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs)) has become messy. The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is in favour of Operator Protection Devices (OPDs) but the Victorian Farmers’ Federation (VFF) is not. Doctors and farmers are calling for a five-start safety rating for quad bikes. One researcher says such a scheme is ready to go. The manufacturers’ industry representative, Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) says no it’s not but here’s a new helmet to wear.
Around all of this is remarkable silence about legal action launched against the Victorian occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator, WorkSafe, by Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki and BRP over WorkSafe’s interpretation of a legal safety duty.
All the while farmers in some States are continuing to access generous safety rebate schemes. Continue reading “Quad bike safety gets messy – disagreements, Supreme Court writs and stars”