People Risk = OHS for Human Resource professionals

The Governance Institute of Australia hosted a discussion about “Corporate culture and people risk — lessons from the Royal Commission”.  The seminar was worthwhile attending but there was also moments of discomfort.

The reality was that The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry was not discussed in any great detail as it was treated as a ghost hovering behind the discussion but not a scary ghost, almost a ghost of embarrassment.

And it seems that “People Risk” is what the Human Resource (HR) profession calls occupational health and safety (OHS) when it can’t bring itself to say occupational health and safety.

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Paula Schubert was bullied before her suicide

In November 2016, 53-year old Paula Schubert hanged herself. On July 25 2018 the Northern Territory Coroner Greg Cavanagh described the behaviour of managers at her employer, the Norther Territory Department of Children and Families/Territory Families as bullying.

The full Coronial Findings are an important read for any organisation to understand how managerial activities and attitudes can negatively affect workers. 

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New inquiry into sexual harassment – an OHS opportunity and challenge

On June 20 2018, the Australian government announced a National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, claiming it to be a world-first. Sexual harassment is not an occupational health and safety (OHS) hazard in many ways BUT the psychological harm it can create is. The job of an OHS person is to encourage employers to reduce work-related harm through prevention, so we need to prevent sexual harassment, just as we do for all the work activities that contribute to poor psychological health and safety.

The macroeconomic costs of sexual harassment in the workplace may be of interest to politicians and business lobbyists but this can be a significant distraction from identifying ways to prevent psychological harm, which should be the most important legacy of this type of inquiry.

Addressing the OHS impacts of

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The data for workplace mental health exists, if we demand it

Data about occupational health and safety (OHS) and work-related psychosocial injuries has often been described as being hard to find.  In some ways it is not necessarily hard to find but difficult to access.  An untapped source of data is the records of illness and leave taken that is usually held by the Human Resources (HR) departments, often named “People and Culture”or some variant.  This type of data could be invaluable in determining a workplace psychological profile, if the HR departments would trust OHS professionals more, or release this data in a format that would allow OHS professionals to assess risks while maintaining employees’ privacy.

Beware, Generalisations Ahead

In Australia, employees are usually entitled to ten days’ sick leave, five of which require a medical certificate.  This means that one of the forty-eight expected working weeks may be taken off by workers with no reason provided to the employer other than a call or a text saying “I’m not coming into work today because I am not feeling well.”  Australian slang describes this as “chucking a sickie”.  

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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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