New film provides an update on legal action over the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire

An independently-produced documentary, Our Power, about the Hazelwood mine fire had its Victorian premiere on March 2 2019. The Hazelwood coal mine fire was a major workplace disaster than generated substantial public health damage in the neighbour communities in the Latrobe Valley. An early record of the event and its impacts can be found in Tom Doig‘s book The Coal Face.

The documentary provides unique vision of the fire and how it burned and polluted the neighbourhood for over a month in 2014. As time goes on, the fire is seen more as an environmental disaster as it is workplace incident and speakers in Our Power are certainly confident in linking the fire with the privatisation of State-owned assets and the social injustice that underpins neoliberalism.

Login or subscribe to SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue reading.
Article locked

Log In Subscribe

Annual Leave is an institutionalised mental health break

Occupational health and safety (OHS) and Human Resources (HR) disciplines continue to, mostly, operate in isolation and, sometimes, in conflict.  Part of the reason is that workplace matters are often seen as either OHS or HR, even though they are both.

SafetyAtWorkBlog looks for why Australian workers have four weeks of Annual Leave.

Login or subscribe to SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue reading.

Article locked

Log In Subscribe

Heat

The occupational risks of exposure to excessive heat have usually been assessed in remote locations in Australia, and almost exclusively for outdoor workers. The changing environmental conditions, regardless of the global cause, are changing the risk assessment of heat for outdoor workers and, increasingly, indoor workers such as those in food production or kitchens.

Recently Safe Work Australia released a seminar online which discussed the issue of heat in the occupational health and safety (OHS) context.

The panel discussion operates from the perspective of what can be done rather than what could be done and remains within the occupational context. Professor Dino Pisaniello mentioned his recent research into the issue, which looks like it was meant to be the focus of this seminar and which found:

Login or subscribe to SafetyAtWorkBlog to continue reading.
Article locked

Log In Subscribe

Is workplace health and safety still relevant?

Free Access

A quiet revolution is happening in workplace health and safety in Australia.  I don’t mean the laws – that boat sailed with the failure of the attempt to harmonise laws and tweak them for the new Century.  The change is coming from a realisation that what is still mostly called Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) has been misunderstood and misapplied, especially in the context of work-related psychological hazards.

OHS emerged in its most contemporary form in the 1970s in the UK and manifested in new laws in Australian States in the 1980s.  These laws stipulated that the primary duty of care for the health and safety of workers AND those affected by the work processes suits with the employers (ignore the absurd modern variation of employer in the Work Health and Safety laws – the PCBU – Persons Conducting Business or Undertaking as only lawyers really use the term.  Some prominent lawyers pronounced the acronym as “Peek-A-Boo” (you know who you are) as if OHS was a barely-held-together nightie! It was juvenile and didn’t help).  Workers have a duty to not harm themselves or others and to support the employer’s OHS processes.

Continue reading “Is workplace health and safety still relevant?”

Royal Commission into Mental Health

Free Access

The Victorian Government has instigated a Royal Commission into Mental Health. At the moment it is receiving submissions to assist it in developing the Terms of Reference. This is an odd process that delays the Commission’s start and is giving the impression that the Commission has already commenced.

However, it is important that occupational health and safety (OHS) advocates become deeply involved in this Royal Commission as psychological harm in the workplace, and caused by the workplace, is a hazard that employers are obliged to try to eliminate. If the workplace context of mental health is not overtly included in the Commission’s Terms of Reference, we will miss a major opportunity for the changes required to prevent psychological incidents and will likely remain with only the symptomatic relief offered by most workplace wellbeing strategies and products.

On the Submissions website, I prioritised “Prevention and Early Intervention” and the “Prevent of Suicide” as my top priorities and make these concise suggestions.

Are there any additional themes that should be included in the terms of reference for the Royal Commission into Mental Health?

It is vital that the issue of Prevention is included in the terms of reference as investment in and attention to prevention has been shown to be the best way to achieve the most return on investment.

The workplace health and safety context should also be mentioned as work can create psychological harm but can also have benefits by providing people with a purpose as well as an independent income.

I encourage all SafetyAtWorkBlog readers who are concerned about workplace psychosocial hazards to visit the submission web page so that the Commission understands the importance that occupational health and safety has in preventing harm.

Kevin Jones