This article is about SafeWorkNSW’s recently released Draft Code of Practice for Managing the Risks to Psychological Health, but it is not going to focus on the Code. Instead the focus will be on the supplementary Explanatory Paper because this presents the rationale for the Code’s contents and, in many ways, is a more useful tool for occupational health and safety (OHS) discussions. However, just as the Code has structural and legislative limitations as part of its Purpose, the Explanatory Paper is a support document for submissions on the Draft Code and therefore has its own limitations.
In mid-September the Australian Government released a draft work health and safety Code of Practice about the management of COVID19. It is a good draft to which occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals should submit comments as COVID19 or similar coronaviruses are going to be part of our working lives for many years to come.
The curious part of this draft Code is that it was released by the Attorney General’s Department (AGD) and not its subsidiary Safe Work Australia (SWA).
On September 12 2020, The Australian’s workplace relations journalist Ewin Hannan wrote about working from home (WFH), a reasonable topic as many Australians have been asked to do this, often at the request of the State Government, in order to reduce and control the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. The structure of the article centred on the additional costs and risks to employers from having workers work from home, especially in relation to potential injuries and workers’ compensation. This perspective on occupational health and safety (OHS) is seriously skewed, but it reflects the dominant perspective in the media and the community. A little bit more research would have provided a more accurate picture about Working From Home.
Discussion on the sexual harassment allegations against former High Court judge Dyson Heydon continue even though some Australian States’ media have returned to COVID19 clusters and football. On July 6, 2020, five hundred women in the legal profession published an open letter calling for
“… wider reforms to address the high incidence of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct in the legal profession”
The signatories call for an independent complaints body for the Australian judiciary and changes to the appointment of judges. What is missing is Prevention.
Thinking about the occupational health and safety (OHS) issues of sex work is fascinating and, to some, titillating. But work is work and the OHS issues are just as real in a room in a brothel as in any other workplace. The workplace hazards presented by COVID19 to the Australian sex industry have been identified and addressed in some excellent OHS advice from Scarlet Alliance.
Sex workers need to screen clients already for visible signs of sexually transmitted diseases so personal questions about health and infections is already part of the customer relations. (There are also requirements for customers to shower or wash prior to services) The questions asked in relation to COVID19 are the same as asked elsewhere:
The safe number of people in an elevator gained the attention of Australia’s Attorney General, Christian Porter. The narrow consideration of the COVID19 risks faced by workers as they return to work was taken to Porter by the head of the Property Council of Australia, Ken Morrison.
According to an article in the Australian Financial Review on May 22 2022, Morrison took up the issue with Safe Work Australia who rebuffed his approach and refused to change the original guidance. He then contacted the Attorney-General’s office who, according to Morrison:
“…. engaged with the Deputy Chief Medical Officer to ensure the health issues were properly understood and then in conjunction with Safe Work Australia ensured that revised guidelines were released which were absolutely safe, but practical, and allowed the return to work that the national cabinet has been encouraging.”
[Guest Post] By Simon Longstaff (reproduced with permission from Crikey)
Each week, The Ethics Centre’s executive director Dr Simon Longstaff will be answering your ethics questions [in Crikey]. This week:
“ My employer sent me a questionnaire designed to test if my home working environment meets basic standards. If I’d answered truthfully I would have ‘failed’ the test. But what’s the point in telling the truth when I have to work at home in any case? Was it wrong to lie on the form?”
Although this ethical issue seems to fall on you — as the person receiving the survey — it actually starts with your employer’s decision to request this information in the first place.