The two extremes of managing burnout

Two new books about burnout arrived on my doorstep this week. They could not be more different. They reflect the mess of approaches to this type of psychosocial injury. Only one provides valid, useful evidence and advice.

Bev Aisbett released a book that I found unreadable – partly because of the advice offered but mostly because of the atrocious formatting where she YELLS almost all the time in the most annoying social media way. Below is a random example.

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The wicked problem of the safety of shearers and the viability of sheep farming

Shearing sheep is an exhausting laborious job and so can cause work-related injuries for which workers’ compensation can be sought. The Weekly Times on January 4 2023 (paywalled) devoted a whole page to the issue in an article headlined “The shear cost of it all”. (Only a companion piece is available online at the time of writing)

The aim of the article seems to be to illustrate the exorbitant and unfair workers’ compensation costs faced by the employers of shearers, but some relevant occupational health and safety (OHS) matters are overlooked.

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A fair dinkum fair go?

A New Work Relations Architecture is a radical book for Australia. Radical because its authors are proposing industrial relations reform, and Australia has had very little of this since Prime Minister John Howard‘s attempt with Workchoices in 2005. Radical also because it has taken inspiration from the Robens approach to occupational health and safety (OHS) laws.

The new “architecture” (thankfully, the cliche of “ecosystem” was not used) is described as:

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Past findings may offer strategies for the future

Further to the recent article about the 2004 Maxwell Report, it is useful to note the recommendations peppered throughout the report, as collated by K Lee Adams. Although aimed at the Victorian Workcover Authority and WorkSafe Victoria, these are interesting ideas that could be asked of any occupational health and safety (OHS) authority currently. Some have already been addressed; others were posed 18 years ago and have not progressed. The recommendations have been numbered for easier reference.

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The well-being budget is OHS’ time to make its case for inclusion

The Australian Treasurer, Dr Jim Chalmers is receiving good media attention for his thoughts on a “well-being budget”. This newsworthiness has been helped by American economist Joseph Stiglitz being on an Australian speaking tour at the same time. Stiglitz strongly advocates using socioeconomic measures to complement traditional economic measures. Well-being budgets shift how governments view policies, programs and strategies in a similar ideological fashion to how we should consider safety differently. The occupational context of well-being is well-established, but this new approach to measurement may challenge those established well-being programs.

Australia is not ignorant of the well-being budgets. It is not something created by Chalmers or just imported from New Zealand.

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Questions beyond the “new view” of safety

Dr Tristan Casey has written an interesting discussion paper about clarifying the landscape of work health and safety innovation. According to Casey, innovation is the creation of new ideas, practices and more that add value for organisations over time. This integrates with one’s occupational health and safety (OHS) state of knowledge. Casey calls these WHS/OHS innovations as “new view” safety.

The SafetyAtWorkBlog has reported on many of these new concepts. Many concepts have great potential, but we must also examine the barriers to acceptance and implementation – the research to practice journey. Casey discusses some of those barriers.

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Assessing the best places to work

On April 27 2022, a leading Australian business newspaper, the Australian Financial Review (AFR), included a supplement called the “Best Places to Work” (paywalled). I purchased a hard copy (yes, they are still available) to look for occupational health and safety (OHS) mentions.

“Best” is hard to define. It could mean safest, it could mean best paid, it could mean friendliest. Because the supplementary allocates awards for the best places to work, the judging consultants, Inventium, included its criteria. You can already guess some of the focus of the awards as Inventium is described as “Australia’s leading behavioural science consultancy”. The assessment of the applicants involves:

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