The topicality and importance of many issues highlighted in early 2020 have disappeared. One of them was the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace and Libby Lyons, Director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, has released the speech she intended to give at the, now cancelled, Commission on the Status of Women meeting at the United Nations. Lyons said this about sexual harassment and employers:
The theme for most commemorations on April 28 is the COVID19 pandemic. This is understandable as the pandemic has disrupted lives and economies globally and many people have died. Perhaps the most tragic of these deaths are those of medical and healthcare staff who have contracted the infection through their work. The largest public outrage over this situation has been in the United Kingdom, but a similar situation could easily have occurred in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere if those governments had not acted as quickly as they did or were less better prepared.
Some research has already commenced on healthcare worker infection deaths showing important initial clues on how governments, hospitals and medical employers can do better.
The occupational health and safety (OHS) risks associated with the COVID19 induced working situations are well established although still not easily or readily controlled. Some countries are starting to emerge from the enforced lockdowns and isolations and need to restart work. This emergence will be faced by almost all countries to differing extents and OHS and infection control will be integral to how this occurs.
This week a workplace mental conference has been running in Sydney with some excellent speakers. The theme is to improve integrated approaches to workplace mental health in the belief that progress can be most effective when workplace silos and professional disciplines share information and actively listen.
However, resistance to change continues and silos continue to exist even if the interconnecting bridges are half-formed. One half-formed bridge was illustrated when I put this question to a panel discussion:
“What does a psychological near-miss look like?”
Last week the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) launched its Body of Knowledge Chapter on Ethics in Melbourne to a small group of occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals. Participants were asked to outline an ethical challenge they had faced as OHS professionals.
In that same week, WorkSafe Victoria issued a media release that showed a poor follow-through by a business on advice from an OHS professional.
In relation to the release, last week, of the Brady Review SafetyAtWorkBlog wondered:
“It is worth asking whether a reliance on Administrative Controls could be interpreted as a level of negligence that could spark an Industrial Manslaughter prosecution.”
A seminar hosted by law firm Maddocks this week offered an opportunity to pose this as a question.
Government attention on the risks of silicosis, especially those related to engineered stone, continues to increase. Australia has established a National Dust Disease Taskforce to investigate the risks and to make recommendations to the government at the end of 2020. A national investigation is warranted but occupational health and safety (OHS) is regulated at State level so it could be many years until safety improves on this matter, if the States wait for the Taskforce’s final report.
Luckily, the debate on silicosis risks continue in various Parliaments and the Taskforce is seeking submissions.