Resilience training is not dead, but it is coughing up blood

[This article was submitted to The Age (and elsewhere) as a soft counter to so many workplace articles about health and safety that never include content from an occupational health and safety (OHS) specialist. It was never used, even though rewrites were requested.

So it gets used here and in support of this curious month of October where, in Australia, there are two separate monthly themes – Mental Health and Work Health and Safety. That these themes continue to be separate says heaps about the culture in each of these sectors]

Australian jurisdictions are amending their workplace health and safety (WHS) legislation to specify that the unavoidable duties and obligations of employers must now include the psychological health of their workers and not just physical health.  These reasonable and long overdue moves are manifesting in new laws, and new guidances supported by new International Management Standards. The kicker in these changes is that, at least in Victoria, employers will no longer be able to rely solely on awareness training or resilience training to manage workplace mental health.  This position could, and should, challenge traditional mental health trainers and lobbyists to recalibrate their workplace strategies.

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Australia’s mental health industry is in transition

Dr Ian Hickie is a well-respected and knowledgeable advocate of mental health. His CV shows extensive experience in this area since the 1980s. Recently Dr Hickie spoke to the Australian Financial Review about EY’s announcement of a review into its workplace culture following the death by suicide of one of EY’s employees at their offices. The article (paywalled) seems to show a change in traditional approaches to mental health in workplaces, but the change needs to be much more significant and broader.

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Pressure on local government over procurement and OHS

On a chilly night in Ballarat, over a hundred people gathered outside the Town Hall, within which the City Council was meeting, to let the Council know that the awarding of millions of dollars of ratepayers’ money to a local company that admitted to breaching occupational health and safety (OHS) laws and that led to the deaths of two local workers was not acceptable.

The event seem coordinated by the local Trades Hall Council, for the usual inflatable rat and fat cat were next to the ute, which was blasting out protest songs. Almost all the speakers were trade unionists, although one was Andy Meddick from the Animal Justice Party. The protest may not have achieved the changes that many speakers called for, but as is the case with these types of events, Council has given some ground with a likely review of the OHS procurement criteria.

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Industrial Manslaughter and marketing

Industrial Manslaughter was always going to generate some workplace safety marketing at some point. In this week’s Australian Financial Review (23 September 2022, page 23, paywalled), Inspectivity paid for a full-page advertorial promoting its data collection and analysis products. It mentioned that its products could help to reduce the risk of being prosecuted for Industrial Manslaughter. But what does this say about one’s customers and their attitude to providing safe and healthy workplaces if the avoidance of personal accountability is the ”hook” for the sale?

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Australia’s mining sector can avoid becoming the next institutional pariah

Around a decade ago, parts of the Australian rail construction industry introduced the Pegasus Card. The intent was to have a single portal through which a worker’s competencies and eligibility to work could be verified. It evolved into the Rail Industry Worker Card in existence today. Pegasus remains in parts of the mining sector.

I was reminded of the Pegasus Card when I read the recent West Australian report into sexual harassment in the mining sector, Enough is Enough. One of its recommendations, Number 3, was that:

“The industry must explore ways to prevent perpetrators of serious sexual harassment simply finding reemployment on other sites and in other companies. This should involve:
– thorough exploration of an industry-wide workers’ register or other mechanism such as industry-wide accreditation, taking into account natural justice considerations and perhaps modelled on the Working With Children Card;…..

“industry-wide workers’ register”? Isn’t that what the Pegasus card helps to manage?

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SafeWorkSA’s approach to psychological harm is as much as it can do but doesn’t have to be

The harm presented by working in Australia’s mining sector has been a concern for a long time. Over the last decade or two, the psychosocial harm from the same work has come to the fore. The occupational health and safety (OHS) responsibility sits clearly with the employers who, in Australia, are often well-resourced national and international corporations. Recently SafeWorkSA issued a media release entitled “Sexual harassment in mining sparks campaign“. SafetyAtWorkBlog took the opportunity to put some questions to the South Australia OHS agency, to which it has responded.

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Should a company that killed two workers receive a $2 million government contract?

In November last year, Pipecon was found guilty of breaching its occupational health and safety (OHS) duties concerning the deaths of two of the company’s workers in and from a trench collapse. An offence to which the company pleaded guilty. (Details of the incident and prosecution can be found HERE – search for Pipecon). The Ballarat Council has awarded the company a road construction project valued at over $2 million. Should the Council have done so? How does this decision affect the deterrence message that OHS prosecutions are supposed to generate? What does this say about the criteria used in procuring services?

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