Welding explosion burn survivor talks about the experience

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The 19 May 2009 edition of The 7.30 Report included a fresh perspective on rehabilitation from workplace injuries.  According to the website

“Sydney man Frank Spiteri was not expected to live after suffering third-degree burns to 70 per cent of his body in a major workplace explosion in 2007.

Not only did Mr Spiteri survive, but he has transformed from an overweight businessman into a fitness fanatic who is determined to help other burns victims.”

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has provided an extended interview with Frank online. It is a story of extraordinary personal will, a story rarely seen on national television.

Kevin Jones

Gillard’s plans for new OHS agency

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In an interview with the Australian Financial Review of 20 January 2009, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, has indicated a preference for the Workplace Relations Ministerial Council to “create an executive agency that did not need the approval of parliament”. 

The article goes on to report Gillard’s OHS plan

“the states would use executive powers to create another regulator to control the new laws to avoid the need for approval from the federal parliament…”

The process she proposes has broader ramifications for the Rudd government’s reform agenda, as can be indicated by the placement of the article on the cover of the conservative newspaper, the Australian Financial Review

Gillard’s proposal is not ideal and as the AFR editorial points out, it is the inflexibility of the Coalition and Greens that has put this option on the Minister’s agenda.  It is an important move and one that is likely to receive support from the OHS professional organisations who have lobbied for a central OHS regulatory agency.

The next step is to see what the review panel into model OHS law recommends in its report due to be handed to the government at the end of January 2009.

[The articles are not available on line as AFR.com is a subscription-only service]

Kevin Jones

When managing stress, are safety managers looking at the wrong thing?

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Today is World Mental Health Day and the media, at least in Australia, is inundated with comments and articles on mental health.  This morning, Jeff Kennett, a director of beyondblue, spoke on ABC Radio about the increasing levels of anxiety that people are feeling in these turbulent economic times.  Throughout the 5 minute interview, Kennett never once mentioned stress.  This omission seemed odd as, in the workplace safety field, stress is often seen as the biggest psychosocial hazard faced in the workplace.

SafetyAtWorkBlog spoke with Clare Shann, the senior project manager with beyondblue’s Workplace Program, about the role of stress in the workplace and its relation to mental health.  She clarified that stress is not a medical condition but a potential contributor to developing a mental illness, such as anxiety disorders or depression.

To put the situation into context, there is a fascinating interview with a Darren Dorey of Warrnambool in Victoria.  The 20 minute interview was conducted on  a regional ABC Radio station on 9 October, and describes the personal experience of depression and anxiety that stems, to some extent, from work.

It seems that in trying to manage stress, OHS professionals may be focusing on the wrong element in worker health.  Perhaps what are considered workers compensation claims for stress should be re–categorised as claims for mental illness.  This may result in a better acceptance of the existence of this workplace hazard.

An exclusive interview with Clare Shann can be heard clare_shann_mental_health