New inquiry into sexual harassment – an OHS opportunity and challenge

On June 20 2018, the Australian government announced a National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, claiming it to be a world-first. Sexual harassment is not an occupational health and safety (OHS) hazard in many ways BUT the psychological harm it can create is. The job of an OHS person is to encourage employers to reduce work-related harm through prevention, so we need to prevent sexual harassment, just as we do for all the work activities that contribute to poor psychological health and safety.

The macroeconomic costs of sexual harassment in the workplace may be of interest to politicians and business lobbyists but this can be a significant distraction from identifying ways to prevent psychological harm, which should be the most important legacy of this type of inquiry.

Addressing the OHS impacts of

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Duty of Care to the safety and health of “others”.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) has released a very good report about Australia’s immigration detention centres which includes a long discussion on duty of care to detainees under Common Law. The report, “In Poor Health: Health care in Australian immigration detention” does not include any discussion on the duty of care under work health and safety (WHS) legislation however it can be argued that the Australian Government, through its supply chain, chain of responsibility and contract management, also has a duty of care to detainees under health and safety laws.

Several recent legal actions and workplace safety guidance indicates that clarification about the duty of care on physical and psychological risks to “others” is overdue.

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It’s on the books but we don’t read much

Victoria’s Trades Hall has criticised the Master Builders Association of Victoria (MBAV) over its opposition to Industrial Manslaughter laws.  The MBAV’s opposition is described as “tired” by Trades Hall in a small article in the OHS Reps SafetyNet Journal which illustrates how the gap is unbreachable.

This is what the OHS Unit of Trades Hall said about the

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ACCC slaps down the FCAI on quad bike safety

On June 5 2018, Sharon O’Keeffe of the North Queensland Register newspaper aired the response of the Deputy Commissioner of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Mick Keogh to claims from the Federated Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) on the safety of quad bikes and crush protection devices (CPDs). O’Keeffe says “the gloves are off”.

In March 2018, the ACCC announced its intention for a mandatory safety standard for quad bikes, or All Terrain Vehicles (ATV,) that included CPDs. 

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Preview of Australia’s new work-related psychological injuries guidance

Peta Miller has worked at Safe Work Australia (SWA) for around 17 years.  She leaves there at the end of June.  One of her last public appearances for SWA was the National Health and Safety Conference in Melbourne in May 2018 at which she provided an outline of the new work-related psychological injuries guidance that has been signed-off by SWA but not yet released to the public.

This guide is said to be a large one but not one that requires a re-education on safety and psychological terms.  There is discussion about applying the risk management Hierarchy of Controls to psychosocial hazard identification, the prevention of psychological harm through the design of good work and the identification of psychological hazards without the need to diagnose a medical condition.

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