The next gig job must be safer and healthier

A man in different kind of occupations. Credit:
bowie15

A lot of focus is currently on casual workers as their jobs disappear due to the responses to the COVID19 coronavirus. Australia has around 2.6 million of them and there are many more workers who may be classified as Part Time but operate on uncertain rosters and are, in reality, as precarious as casual employees. Occupational health and safety (OHS) is struggling to address the hazards presented by modern variations of precarious work, such as gig economy workers, because it, and government economic and employment policy more generally, is structured on the assumption of Full Time Employment (FTE) with work occurring mainly from nine to five, on weekdays with weekends off.

Consideration of precarious worker OHS may seem a lesser priority at the moment as many of us are quarantined or quarantine by choice but at some point, hopefully, within the next twelve months, business will resume. However, that business model and structure is unlikely to be the same. Indeed, it should not be same as the risk profile for all businesses and the community generally has changed. So, let’s have a look at some of the recent thinking about precarious work and the OHS risks so that we can build a better, safer model.

Login or subscribe to SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue reading.
Article locked

Log In Subscribe Help

More on David Michaels’ book – “statistics are people with the tears wiped away”

I found time to read the rest of David Michaels’ latest book “The Triumph of Doubt“. It was loaded with information that is directly relevant to the Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) sector but more about the manipulation of facts and the stealth of lobbyists and influencers than on the hazards themselves. Here’s my take on some of his thoughts.

Two Australian case studies that would not have been out of place in a book like Michaels’, or even an Australian supplement to his book, were quad bikes and workplace mental health. Quad bike safety is the better fit with Michaels’ approach as many of the techniques of Zellner and Dynamic Research Incorporated, and the strategies of international all-terrain vehicle manufacturers, reflect the those strategies in the book.

David Michaels writes about chemicals, primarily, but many of his words hint that similar “doubt scientists” could be already in the psychological health and wellness sector, except these scientists are less about reacting to litigation and legislation than supporting and strengthening an industry in anticipation of increased regulatory scrutiny. “Pre-action”, perhaps?

Login or subscribe to SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue reading.
Article locked

Log In Subscribe Help

OHS and wage theft

Australia is several years into a scandal of underpayment of workers referred to, by some, as wage theft. Occupational health and safety (OHS) would not normally figure in a wages and industrial relations (IR) scandal but the scandal has a legitimate OHS context.

The previous, and ongoing, scandals are not going to be summarised in this article as there are plenty of articles elsewhere in lots of different media but there is a common thread in many of the scandals. Workers are not being paid for some of the time they spend at work, work that is commonly described as unpaid overtime. This unpaid overtime extends the working day, for a variety of reasons, and OHS may not accommodate these additional hours (as they are “not official”) or OHS may be “stretched”, or risks downplayed.

Login or subscribe to SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue reading.
Article locked

Log In Subscribe Help

Worker exploitation may be cultural but is still harmful

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has released a media statement based on new research into mental illness and suicidal ideation of junior doctors. Given that the relationship between excessive working hours and mental health is increasingly becoming an occupational health and safety (OHS) issue, SafetyAtWorkBlog sought some clarification to some of the quotes in the statement attributed to AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone.

The January 23 2020 media release quoted Bartone saying:

“A healthy medical profession is vital to patient safety and quality of care, and the sustainability of the medical workforce,… Significant evidence already exists to show that doctors are at greater risk of psychological distress and stress-related problems. This new research provides clear additional insight into how the workplace can affect the health and wellbeing of the medical profession. Long working hours, unpredictable rosters, overtime, being on-call, and night shifts are significant systemic barriers to the maintenance of physical and mental health and wellbeing. There is an established link between working more hours and having higher rates of anxiety, depression, and psychological distress.”

These are the questions put to the AMA:

  • The media release lists several “systemic barriers” that are generating poor psychological health. It seems that most of these barriers would be removed or weakened if hospitals had more staff. Is the psychological harm a result of insufficient staffing levels? And is this a result of underinvestment in hospitals?
  • Is the fatigue, psychological harm, etc. a result of trying to make do with the available resources? If so, what new income or labour sources are being sought?
  • Why do you think the trend towards safe working hours stalled?
Login or subscribe to SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue reading.
Article locked

Log In Subscribe Help

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.

Login or subscribe to SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue reading.
Article locked

Log In Subscribe Help