A couple of months ago, SafetyAtWorkBlog mentioned New Zealand’s Wellbeing Budget. Last week a representative of the NZ Treasury, Ruth Shinoda, spoke about it from direct experience in Melbourne at the 7th Global Healthy Workplace Summit. The Wellbeing Budget and a complimentary Living Standard Framework provide important contrasts to how Australia is valuing the healthy and safety of its citizens and workers.
The Australian Financial Review on October 1 2019 contained an exclusive report on consulting firm (paywalled) Deloitte’s approach to mental health at work matters coinciding with National Safe Work Month. The original document is unlikely to be publicly released but Edmund Tadros‘ report provides some quotes and insights. The initiative seems very positive until you consider it in light of organisational changes recommended to control and prevent this psychological hazards from Safe Work Australia (SWA) guidance.
Tadros quotes Deloitte’s Australian CEO Richard Deutsch:
“Mr Deutsch said in the message that individual differences could mean “what I find stressful you may find motivating, and vice versa. I don’t want anyone to feel their health and wellbeing is compromised because of work”.
This broad statement fits with the employer’s duties under occupational health and safety (OHS) laws, so it’s a good start. But doubts about the strategy start to emerged when Deutsch mentions workload, a contentious issue for Deloitte’s junior staff:
In September 2019 an Australian recruiting firm, Beaumont People, has commissioned a research project to identify what constitutes meaningful work. The company places meaningful work in the context of at least one of the United Nations’ Sustainability Goals (SDGs) – Decent Work and Economic Growth, but it is difficult to understand what is meant by “meaningful work”. Couldn’t the survey have used the UN Decent Work criteria?
The Beaumont People website says this of Meaningful Work:
“Meaningful Work is the importance an individual places on their work meeting their current personal beliefs, values, goals, expectations, and purpose in the context of their social and cultural environment.
Despite the vast amount of research undertaken on the concept and measurement of meaningful work, there remains no consistent definition of meaningful work nor consensus on the scales designed to measure it.”
Professions often learn more from those in other professions that they do from their own. As such SafetyAtWorkBlog looks in lots of places for insights that may help the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession.
Recently the Australian Human Resource Institute published a discussion paper called “5 Hard Truths about Workplace Culture”. OHS operates in the same workplace culture so there may be lessons for all.
The other week Lucinda Brogden, one of Australia’s Mental Health Commissioners participated in a three day suicide prevention conference, concluding the week as a keynote speaker at an occupational health and safety (OHS) seminar. Her commitment to keep focusing on the prevention of harm made her a comfortable fit for the largely OHS audience. Hopefully her influence is big on the Australian mental health policy makers.
Brogden reminded the audience of an 1895 poem by Joseph Malins which discusses the prevention of harm through the analogy of putting a fence at the cliff edge to stop people falling rather than having an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff to collect the dead and injured. It is unlikely that Malins was thinking of workplace safety with this poem but, as a temperance activist, it is certain he was thinking about health. Regardless, the imagery is a useful and simple illustration of the advantages in the prevention of harm, and not just in relation to mental health.