Gas, lungs, ladders, fruit picking and concrete pumping – latest workplace incidents

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The media on 11 March 2010 was reporting the discovery of a the body of a hotel worker in  a beer cellar of a Victorian hotel.  WorkSafe Victoria is investigating the possibility of carbon dioxide.

As with so  many cases of confined spaces, a second man was lucky to be alive after venturing into the cellar to check on the hotel worker.  The police report suggested that the second man was making a delivery to the hotel.

At such an early stage in the investigation and with so little detail,it is hard to say more than what WorkSafe’s Stan Krpan said in a media release this afternoon:

“With or without a gas leak or chemical exposure, limited means of entry and exit, poor air circulation, and working in confined spaces, is risky. Continue reading “Gas, lungs, ladders, fruit picking and concrete pumping – latest workplace incidents”

Maybe Australia is looking in the wrong direction on harmonising workers’ compensation

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South Australia has pledged to increase competition in its local workers’ compensation scheme in the hope of improving (some say fixing) it.  Most other Australian States have a competitive structure with private insurers.  In a couple of years, those insurers will be battling it out to achieve national coverage as the Federal Government moves to harmonise the State systems.

New data from Canada shows that perhaps Australia needs to take a deep breath and nationalise workers’ compensation for the good of the injured workers and business.

A February 2010 report from the Institute for Work & Health has concluded that

“The public administration of workers’ compensation in the Canadian systems provides a strong economic benefit to employers, arising from the lower administrative costs of a single public agency compared with the costs arising in a competitive insurance market. Continue reading “Maybe Australia is looking in the wrong direction on harmonising workers’ compensation”

When looking to understand psychosocial issues, ask your grandparents

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In February 2010, the New York Times ran an article about depression by Jonah Lehrer.  The same article appeared in some of Australia’s weekend newspapers in early March.  Lehrer looks at the issue of depression and considers whether there is a potential upside to the disorder by looking back as far as Charles Darwin for expressions of depression.  He makes a challenging statement:

“…that depression has a secret purpose and our medical interventions are making a bad situation even worse.  Like a fever that helps the immune system fight off infection — increased body temperature sends white blood cells into overdrive — depression might be an unpleasant yet adaptive response to affliction.”

Lehrer goes on to make a case for depression being a possible source of creativity.

He refers extensively to the evolutionary psychology research of Andy Thomson and Paul Andrews who acknowledge that

“… depression is a vast continuum, a catch-all term for a spectrum of symptoms.”

Perhaps, particularly in the relatively recent consideration of depression in workplaces, we are being too narrow and too specific.  Perhaps the case for workplace depression being made by some of the “depression sellers” is too targeted and we need to remind ourselves of the sociology of work, a perspective that seems to have gone out of fashion. Continue reading “When looking to understand psychosocial issues, ask your grandparents”

Workplace bullying data from Denmark

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In occupational health and safety (OHS) and other workplace research, Scandinavia is often quoted.   The application of research findings to other nations is of dubious value but often Scandinavian research provides clues to potential OHS hazards or control options.

In February 2010, the European Working Conditions Observatory published online a research report into workplace bullying.  The report says

“Investigating the impact of bullying on psychological stress reactions according to the Impact of Event Scale, the NFA study finds that negative acts which potentially isolate the individual at the workplace, acts directed towards the person and unreasonable workloads induce most psychological stress.” Continue reading “Workplace bullying data from Denmark”

Workplace bullying questions to WorkSafe

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Following the successful prosecution of four people for bullying 19-year-old Brodie Panlock, SafetyAtWorkBlog, with the assistance of a lawyer put several questions to WorkSafe Victoria about the case.  Most of the questions and their responses are below:

“SAWB: Could you please advise the reasons for the decision to prosecute the recent workplace bullying case in the Magistrates Court as opposed to the County Court?    My understanding is that this choice limited the potential fine for the individuals involved to 500 penalty points instead of 1800 , and for the company to 2500 instead of 9000.

WV:  In this case, we thought the Magistrates’ Court had the appropriate sentencing discretion to impose a proportionate and fair sentence.

In addition, Magistrates’ Court proceedings takes less time and produce more certain results than County Court proceedings – these charges were issued in July 2009 and resolved in February 2010.   Continue reading “Workplace bullying questions to WorkSafe”