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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The OHS context of the Robert Doyle case

Source: Lucas Dawson Photography

The number of prominent men who have come a cropper as a result of their sexual harassment includes the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle.  A workplace safety trade show in Melbourne recently conducted a public panel seminar on the issue of sexual harassment with particular emphasis on the Doyle case.  One of the Melbourne councillors at the time, Stephen Mayne, spoke via video.  The panel also included a representative of local government, a safety advocate and a lawyer.

One of the most curious elements of this event was that it was conducted in a trade show

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Michalak’s evidence should change the wellbeing and OHS industries

Dr Rebecca Michalak has only recently come to my attention, mainly through challenging some of my statements on social media.  I was able to meet her and watch her presentation at the Safety Institute of Australia’s National Health and Safety Conference in May 2018.  It is likely her voice will become heard more broadly in coming years as she challenges elements of the Establishment.

Many elements of Michalak’s conference presentation can also be heard in the Fit For Work Podcast of Sally McMahon but there were a couple of statements that were notable.

Coping Strategies

“I had a theory that it’s not either/or – it’s an “it depends” thing and what I found across all well-being outcomes, six coping strategies and two samples – that’s 48 mediations – it makes no difference and in fact, most coping strategies make well-being worse.” (emphasis added)

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Lessons in integrity and discipline

Australia’s occupational health and safety (OHS) profession was late to the process of certifying its members.  The Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) has been running its certification program for a couple of years so it is difficult to assess the benefit to members and the community but a critical element in any certification is the treatment of members who breach the Code of Ethics or Code of Conduct.  The revelations of corruption and misconduct from Australia’s Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry provide important lessons in integrity and fairness to all professions.

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Why don’t employers pay attention to psychological harm?

The Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) is an active supporter of Safe Work Australia‘s (SWA) recent attention to the risks of psychosocial hazards in the workplace.  On 10 April 2018, the SIA reiterated this support and its anticipation of a new SWA guide on the issue but the media release  includes a statement that may be a little too polite towards employers and not sufficiently inquisitive about the safety professional’s role.

The CEO of the SIA,

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Sexual harassment Code developed in isolation

Screen Australia has released its sexual harassment code of conduct.  If any film project in Australia desires government funding it will need to comply with this Code.  The Code is a good starting point and will need support from a broad range of elements of the entertainment industry but this Code is indicative of problems with many such codes that see the issue as a legal one rather than a safety and cultural one.

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Change needed NOW, but don’t rush it

Australia has received its own local focus for the #MeToo concerns about sexual harassment in the workplace.  www.now.org.au is the result of a greatly increased concern in Australia, predominantly from the Weinstein issues and the Australian versions.  There seems to be enough interest and expertise behind this organisation that it will move beyond awareness raising to participating in policy decision. However, there is a risk in responses to workplace sexual harassment and mental health that was summarised well by Martin McKenzie-Murray in The Saturday Paper (paywalled) on March 24 2018 and echoes WorkSafe Victoria’s workplace bullying concerns of seven years ago.

NOW.org.au

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