Good solid OHS profile on which to base a change strategy

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) recently released its latest State of Work Health and Safety in Australia 2021 report called “Work Shouldn’t Hurt“. ACTU’s Liam O’Brien said

“The ACTU’s 2021 Work Shouldn’t Hurt Survey revealed that 80% of workers who are injured or made ill at work do not even make a workers’ compensation claim, in the case of insecure workers this jumps to 95%. This highlights that the 120,000 workers who made a claim last year is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to measuring health and safety at work”

This is no surprise to those concerned with occupational health and safety (OHS). Sadly, the ACTU report was thin on possible solutions.

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Some OHS approaches need the Industrial Relations touch

Several years ago, there was a proposal to produce a book of research linked to the work and themes of Professor Michael Quinlan. That book became “The Regulation and Management of Workplace Health and Safety“, and I recently obtained an affordable copy for my Summer break. (An excellent book review has been written by Eric Tucker on which this article is based)

There are many labour and industrial relations concepts in the book, many that I had to look up – pluralism, unitarism, politicalism. Read enough industrial relations (IR) research papers, and these terms might become second nature, but occupational health and safety (OHS) texts (what few there are of them) seem simpler and blander, generally avoiding the politics of work and therefore the politics of safety. Most of the recent OHS books seem to be dominated by Leadership and neuroscience *.

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Progressive report on construction industry culture

An analysis of the safety culture in Australia’s construction industry was launched in October 2021 by a coalition of construction companies under the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce rubric. The Report proposes some interesting and significant changes including capping the working hours to no more than 50 hours and no weekend work. This suggestion is of enormous significance as it challenges the statements of many construction companies of worker safety being their highest priority.

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Reluctance to address mental health notifications

Another example of the unwillingness of occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators feeling able to affect change in workplace mental health by looking outside the workplace is the United Kingdom’s Health & Safety Executive (HSE). Sadly this position contributes to unnecessarily stigmatising a legitimate workplace hazard.

On a recent episode of the Safety and Health Podcast on workplace suicides, Professor Sarah Waters said:

“Unlike other countries, unlike France, unlike the US, unlike most European systems, suicide, even where there are clear links to work is pretty much treated in the UK context as an individual mental health problem, there tends to be a denial on the part of the HSE on the part of other public agencies, that there is a link between suicide and work.”

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Suicides and historic data

Recently Safe Work Australia (SWA) released an excellent batch of occupational health and safety (OHSA) information in its annual “Key WHS Statistics – Australia 2021″. The decline in fatalities is significant, but there remains an odd omission that is worrying the longer it is not addressed – work-related suicides.

Limiting the statistical period also has implications for how OHS is understood and for the rate of change.

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Are “mental health conditions” good or bad?

Part 1 of 2

Many organisations provide support for those experiencing mental health conditions, in workplaces particularly. These are important services; some have filled the gap left by the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession and regulators who neglected psychological health to prioritise traumatic physical injuries. But what is meant by “mental health conditions”? SafetyAtWorkBlog went on a short desktop journey to find out.

On 14 October 2021, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry released a report called “Small Business, Mental Health; navigating the complex landscape“. Part of that complexity stems from the confusing terminology about “psychosocial health” and “workplace mental health”. The ACCI says:

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