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 needs to ride the ESG wave

The current Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) movement can be seen as the latest iteration of companies and business owners reflecting on the broader purposes of running a business.  An earlier manifestation of this reflection was Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  ESG and CSR are similar perspectives from different times but with a fundamental continuity.

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is integral to CSR/ESG/Sustainability considerations but is often overlooked or considered as a business add-on, a situation that has been allowed to persist by the OHS profession, Regulators and others over many decades.

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Where does OHS fit?

Any assessment of ethics in relation to occupational health and safety (OHS) is worthwhile and so the release of a chapter on ethics by the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) generated some excitement. That excitement diminished somewhat as this Chapter of the Body of Knowledge (BoK) dealt with ethics in a very narrow context – “Ethics and Professional Practice“.

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Negligence or Neglect

At the moment, there is a growing concern about accountability of political leaders, business executives and established institutions. In Australia’s occupational health and safety (OHS) community that has manifested in a movement to introduce Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws aimed at negligent employers. These laws have caused some business sectors and leaders to, figuratively, shit themselves. But this fear exists largely when looking at business and OHS through a legal compliance perspective. Breaking down Negligence to a concept that many more people understand – Neglect – may help some better accept their accountability for safe and healthy workplaces.

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OHS approach to sexual harassment gets an airing

Tracey Spicer talking with Tom Ballard in December 2017

Tracey Spicer has been a very public face of the campaign against sexual harassment in Australian workplaces. She, and her campaign, has not been without controversy but recently Spicer presented a three-part documentary on the issue. In Episode 2, the viewers heard, all too briefly, from Dr Rebecca Michalak about the occupational health and safety (OHS) context of sexual harassment.

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