Safe Work Australia’s COVID19 guidance

In mid-March, pandemic advice from occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators was assessed with the generic guidance from WorkSafe Victoria being praised. Many changes to workplaces have occurred since then and Safe Work Australia (SWA) has caught up with the demand for industry-specific guidance on managing work in this pandemic. SWA’s advice is very good and is discussed below.

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The concept of “Coercive Control” should be applied to workplace violence

“Coercive control” is getting attention in New South Wales in relation to domestic violence but there are similarities to workplace behaviours such as sexual harassment and bullying.

The Chief Psychiatrist of Victoria’s “guideline and practice resource: family violence” says

“Family violence is understood as a pattern of repeated and
coercive control, aiming to control another person’s thoughts, feelings and actions.”

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Mental Health conference assessment

As you could guess from some recent blog posts, the Criterion Conference called “Improving Integrated Approaches to Workplace Mental Health” conducted with the support of the Australian Institute of Health and Safety, was well worth attending as many of the speakers were excellent. What was missing was a strong voice of advocacy on behalf of the Human Resources (HR) profession to counter or balance the strong occupational health and safety (OHS) focus.

Below is a summary of some of the important points made by the conference speakers (or at least those who did not impose restrictions).

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Hand washing and safety

The appearance of a new coronavirus (Covid19) has again thrown a focus on hand hygiene. This is an occupational health and safety (OHS) issue as the risk could appear at work and, in Australia, suitable toilet amenities are required under OHS Acts and Regulations. But how do you wash your hands safely? Let’s look at one recommendation.

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New air quality standards for outdoor work

On January 30 2020, the Victorian Trades Hall released a new “approved safety standard” on air quality risks for outdoor workers. It is the latest of a series of alerts and guidelines generated by the persistence of bushfire smoke in urban areas of, especially, New South Wales and Victoria. Bushfire smoke is only going to become more frequent in Australia, and its persistence over weeks, requires a coordinated discussion on how Australian workplaces and practices need to change to adapt to the new climate.

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