Burnout – OHS regulators clarify their positions

The prominence of Burnout as an occupational health and safety (OHS) matter has gained renewed prominence since the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised it as an “occupational phenomenon“. But WHO equally stressed that Burnout

“… is not classified as a medical condition.”

SafetyAtWorkBlog asked several OHS and workplace experts in Australia and overseas about how to prevent Burnout. Below is the first of a series of articles in which Australian OHS Regulators provide their take on the issue. The next part will look at some overseas and non-regulatory perspectives.

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Conspiracy accusations over rail construction project

On March 17 2019, a community radio program and podcast “The Concrete Gang” broadcast some comments about occupational health and safety (OHS) on a rail construction site in Victoria, Australia, believed to be the Aviation Rd, Laverton site. SafetyAtWorkBlog attempted to factcheck the accusations.

Construction company McConnell Dowell is providing construction services on various sites for the Level Crossing Removal Project. According to The Concrete Gang:

“… McConnell Dowell level crossing removal have had a few dramas out there what we’ve got is we’ve a live train and they’re trying to put a level crossing in while there’s a live train going.  They normally do what we call a shutdown which is an occupation where they shut down the line and they’re lifting concrete beams and build a bridge.  Well McConnell Dowell in their wisdom are trying to do it between 10-minute stops…”

“….the workers on the job have got issues because they’re obviously lifting precast elements over trains and there’s obviously no safety…”

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Government Department gets an enforceable undertaking following a workplace death

Yesterday (April 4, 2019) SafeWorkSA dropped charges against the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (DPTI) over breaches of the workplace health and safety legislations that contributed to the death of 54-year-old Debra Summers, in exchange for an Enforceable Undertaking (EU). This move had been flagged earlier noting that it was unusual to accept an EU when a workplace fatality had occurred.

SafeWorkSA’s Executive Director, Martyn Campbell, spoke exclusively with SafetyAtWorkBlog earlier this week to provide more context to the acceptance of the EU. He has spoken to the Summers family in the preparation of the EU and said that some of the request of the family have been incorporated. He also outlined the circumstances of Debra Summers’ death:

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Good, but very limited, advice on workplace mental health

Member magazines, those magazines included in a professional’s membership, are an important source of information. Members of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, for instance, receive the RoyalAuto magazine which is really the primary source of information on changes to road rules. Most occupational health and safety (OHS) associations have internal magazines for a similarly targeted audience. Australian accountants have the In The Black magazine.

Recently In The Black published an article about mental health at work titled “Get smart with mental health”. No background to the author, Helen Hawkes, was provided and no references were included for the data used to support statements about the importance of the mental health. Context and sources are important to all articles but arguably moreso for member magazines and, especially, for professionals like accountants who can have a major impact on how OHS is managed.

Much of the information in the article would be familiar to OHS professionals – Return on Investment, the cost of Presenteeism as a percentage of payroll…. What is almost entirely missing is advice on how to prevent mental ill-health from occurring in the first place, and there is no mention of any of the OHS guidance in this area published by Safe Work Australia.

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Enforceable Undertaking related to workplace death

Several readers have raised their eyebrows over recent media reports in South Australia that say that SafeWorkSA is in the process of accepting an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) related to the death of 54-year-old Debra Summers, who was found dead in a freezer at the Echunga police training reserve on October 4, 2016. The use of EUs when a fatality is involved deserves discussion and resolution, especially when the workplace death involves a hazard that was so well-known.

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