Initial report on Psych Health and Safety Conference

Half way through Day 1 of the Psych Health and Safety Conference and it often feels like we are sitting at a dinner party of organisational psychologists, listening in to a conversation of respectful work colleagues. Some conversations are honest, some are uncomfortable and some are reassuring, but all are interesting.

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Broadening the OHS perspective

Over the last decade, the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession has been challenged by a new perspective on OHS and its professional interaction with it. Safety Differently, Safety II or some other variation are important and intriguing variations, but they seem to remain confined to the workplace, the obligations of the person conducting a business or undertaking, and/or the employer/employee relationship. The interaction of work and non-work receives less attention than it deserves.

Many OHS professionals bemoan OHS’ confinement to managerial silos but continue to operate within their own self-imposed silo. One way for OHS to progress and to remain current and relevant is to look more broadly at the societal pressures under which they work and how their employees or clients make OHS decisions. Some recent non-OHS books and concepts may help.

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International Conventions are attractive but largely academic

Last week, Australia’s Parliament released an information paper on a “National Interest Analysis” of International Labour Organization Convention No. 187: Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention adopted in Geneva on 15 June 2006. Does this mean anything to the local occupational health and safety (OHS) profession? Yeah, Nah, Maybe.

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Hazard over Harm?

The Australian Institute of Health and Safety has been dropping new chapters of its Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Body of Knowledge for many years. The latest revised chapter is titled “Hazard as a Concept“. This process is a good way of keeping some OHS information fresh, but it could be fresher and have a broader knowledge base or even greater engagement with OHS professionals.

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Don’t be a slouch on workstation ergonomics

Office ergonomics is one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented areas of occupational health and safety (OHS). The issue of posture was discussed in an article in the New Yorker on April 15, 2024, based on a new book – “Slouch: Posture Panic in Modern America” by Beth Linker. Rebecca Mead writes that Linker analyses a time when:

“… at the onset of the twentieth century the United States became gripped by what she characterizes as a poor-posture epidemic: a widespread social contagion of slumping that could, it was feared, have deleterious effects not just upon individual health but also upon the body politic. Sitting up straight would help remedy all kinds of failings, physical and moral, and Linker traces the history of this concern: from the exchanges of nineteenth-century scientists, who first identified the possible ancestral causes of contemporary back pain, to the late-twentieth-century popularity of the Alexander Technique, Pilates, and hatha yoga.”

links added
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“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Victoria’s Sentencing Advisory Council is conducting a public inquiry into sentencing and penalties for breaches of occupational health and safety (OHS). Public hearings are continuing, and the inquiry is receiving some well-deserved media attention.

ABC’s The Law Report recently devoted an episode to Industrial Manslaughter laws and the sentencing inquiry. The IM section of the episode was very familiar, but the sentencing inquiry was intriguing.

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Applicability of Restorative Practices to all workplaces

Last week, a book called Setting Relations Right in Restorative Practice by David B Moore and Alikki Vernon (pictured above, second and third from the left, respectively) was published. The launch seemed full of the authors’ friends and colleagues, as well as social workers. Although Restorative Justice has been applied a little bit to resolve workplace conflicts, the discussion was dominated by examples in youth detention, correctional facilities, health care and public sector organisations. These are important industries, but what about the private sector in which most people work?

I asked the authors for some perspectives on workplaces outside of the types already discussed?

Below is the response from Moore and Vernon.

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