The Victorian Government remains secretive on Industrial Manslaughter laws

Victoria’s Department of Justice and Community Safety’s Freedom of Information correspondence is headed:

“Information Integrity & Access”.

For the last few months SafetyAtWorkBlog has been chasing the Workplace Manslaughter Consultation Paper through official channels and been granted “two pages in full”, “four pages in part” and been refused access in full to most of the Consultation Report.  This decision (available here) is because

“These documents include information concerning opinion, advice or recommendation of an officer and the personal affairs of third parties, which cannot be disclosed [for reasons given in the letter]”.

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The economics, and politics, of prevention and the cost of doing nothing

LtoR: Terry Nolan, Rod Campbell, Tony Dudley, Rosemary Calder

On July 9 2019, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) conducted a lunchtime seminar in Melbourne about “the economics of prevention“. The event was supported by GlaxoSmithKline who launched a report about the value of vaccines so the lunch promised to be very medical but that quickly changed when Rod Campbell of The Australia Institute (a late replacement for Richard Denniss) spoke. On the issue of cost-benefit analysis, an important consideration in occupational health and safety (OHS) , Campbell was blunt:

“A huge amount of government decisions are not made by informed economic analysis. They’re made by political decisions.”

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Medical and OHS sectors must start speaking the same language on mental health

For many years, the Australian medical has been supportive of a “Health Benefits of Good Work” (HBGW) initiative. This initiative, started in 2010, is directly relevant to how Australia is determining its mental health policy and strategies especially as they relate to workplaces. The initiative was developed by:

“…. the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM) of The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP). This initiative is based on compelling Australasian and international evidence that good work is beneficial to people’s health and wellbeing and that long term work absence, work disability and unemployment generally have a negative impact on health and wellbeing.”

This initiative can be seen behind many of the public statements about the mental health status of the unemployed as this sits within the public health and the social welfare sectors, but it is rarely mentioned by those providing occupational health and safety (OHS) advice.

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The need for evidence in mental health inquiry

Workplaces and employers have not been totally absent from Victoria’s Royal Commission into Mental Health SystemsPublic Hearings and the Commissioners have asked about the workplace context several times but it sounds like they are asking the wrong people or not challenging enough. For instance, on Day One when Stigma was a theme, the Commission asked Dr Michelle Blanchard of SANE Australia:

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Hopefully prevention of mental injuries at work will emerge in this Royal Commission

LtoR: Professor Bernadette McSherry, Prof. Allan Fels, Penny Arnytage, Dr Alex Cockram

The first week of media coverage of Victoria’s Royal Commission into Mental Health is very thin on the roles and impacts of workplaces and work activities on people’s mental health, but it is part of the conversation.

The Public Hearings on July 4-5 had Prevention and Early Intervention as their theme. Prevention as occupational health and safety (OHS) people would apply was mostly absent. Prevention, in OHS terms, is usually about the elimination of a risk or hazard whereas the impression from the discussion in the Royal Commission over the last few days is that mental health is something that appears, strikes an individual (with ripples to relatives), is treated and a new psychological normal, a functional/social normal is established. Analysis of the social, occupational and environmental precursors, elements that OHS investigations are obliged to consider, seems missing, at the moment.

According to the Commission’s transcript Chair Penny Armytage said on July 2, 2019:

“We start these hearings with a wide lens. Not in hospitals or clinics, but in our homes, our sporting fields and our workplaces.”

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