Moral distress = moral injury = workplace mental ill-health = burnout.

On December 29 2023, The Guardian newspaper’s cover story was about doctors in the United Kingdom’s National Health Service experiencing high rates of “moral distress”. It is common for hospitals and health care services to consider themselves as workplaces with unique hazards rather than suffering similar occupational health and safety (OHS) challenges to all other workplaces. What makes the OHS challenge so significant in the NHS is the size of the challenge rather than its nature or cause.

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Working in Heat, and Gwarda

New research into working in excessive heat concisely summarises the socioeconomic impacts but misses the obvious strategies to prevent or diminish these impacts. It also includes impacts on productivity, but heat and climate change are not in the current Australian business group discussions about productivity. Those groups could benefit from understanding Gwarda.

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The US take on heat and climate change

Coincidentally, as Europe burns and a little blog in Australia writes about the occupational context of excessive heat, a new book called Heat – Life and Death on a scorched planet was in the bookstores. Jeff Goodell, like so many North American authors, writes for his local readers even though his publishers sell books globally.

However, he does address the occupational health and safety (OHS) impacts of heat and offers some adaptations.

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Confusing positions on mental health at work

On March 28 2023, the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (the Chamber) issued an important media release called “Preparing for workplace psychological health reform”. As with most media releases related to occupational health and safety (OHS) matters, it received little attention.

Anton Zytnik a consultant for the Chamber, warned against “mental health washing”, but this media release also contains examples of avoidance and misdirection. And he’s not the only one.

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Any OHS strategy needs to generate spillovers

Reading Safe Work Australia’s latest ten-year strategy forced me to think creatively.

SWA’s discussion of Persistent Challenges suggests controls that are almost all at the Administrative Control level – education, awareness, knowledge, training, understanding, support, communication and more.  This is after admitting that:

“Injury and fatality rates have fallen significantly over the last decade. However, progress has slowed.”

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How can we increase the use of the Hierarchy of Controls (HoC) in determining safety-related policy? How can we get organisations to progress up the control hierarchy to show others that it is possible to prevent all of the incidents that everyone agrees are preventable? (Refer to WorkSafe Victoria’s Colin Radford for a recent example of this belief:

“Every workplace incident, every injury, every illness, every death is entirely unequivocally preventable.”)

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Plenty of sparkle but little spark

The latest awards night for WorkSafe Victoria achieved its scope – present awards for people and organisations who do occupational health and safety (OHS) well. Some categories are for extraordinary effort, achievements or innovation, and winning any award from WorkSafe is important to the winners, but some were flat.

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The next stage of OHS analysis?

“One of our key roles as the regulator is to understand why workplace injuries happen” –

Dr Natassia Goode. Worksafe Victoria, February 9, 2023.

Dr Goode made this statement at a research seminar for the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research. She went on to explain those “widely acknowledged” causes in an expansive discussion about “systems thinking“.

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