Let’s talk about Zagi

Zagi cried. I cried, and the conference delegates cried. Zagi Kozarov‘s presentation at the Psych Health and Safety Conference was confronting, disturbing, and a highlight. Occupational health and safety (OHS) conferences often hear from survivors of physical work injuries and, usually, wives of deceased workers, but Kozarov spoke of the injustice she faced from her managers in an industry sector that few would want to work – the (then) Specialist Sex Offences Unit of the Office of the Public Prosecutor (OPP). What she saw at work was horrific, but the job was less the source of her mental anguish than the negligent treatment she received from her managers.

Caution: this article mentions sexual abuse and assault.

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A mental health book for leaders and HR professionals

Australian lawyer Fay Calderone has published a book called “Broken to Safe – Tackling Toxic Workplace Cultures and Burnout”. The intended readership seems to be “leaders” and Human Resource (HR) professionals. Occupational health and safety (OHS) is mentioned occasionally, but OHS professionals will find much to frustrate them about this self-published book.

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Industrial Manslaughter fears

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has published an article about concerns by West Australian local governments with exposure to prosecution for Industrial Manslaughter under WA’s work health and safety legislation. The concerns seem wellfounded, but the article lacks a social and moral context.

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Where is the OHS debate on zero hours contracts?

Australia is experiencing a period of industrial reforms that is returning some power to workers and, according to some critics, the trade union movement – working hours, same pay for the same job, changing employment status, right to disconnect and more. A curious omission is a discussion of the concept of Zero Hours Contracts. This type of employment is crucial to improving mental health at work as it strengthens a worker’s job control, economy and security.

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Purposeful or lazy discussion of Right-To-Disconnect and Working-From-Home?

There is a curious development in the current discussion in Australia about the newly introduced Right-To-Disconnect (RTD). Many are conflating RTD with Working From Home (WFH) – two separate but slightly overlapping changes to the world of work – which is impeding valid and necessary discussion.

Working From Home largely emerged as a response to the coronavirus pandemic and used flimsy work structures to provide business continuity. The WFH arrangements would have been unlikely to have been so widespread without the federal government’s investment in the National Broadband Network and the commercial growth in mobile phone communication infrastructure. However, that same infrastructure and investment have contributed to the problem that Right-To-Disconnect is intended to address.

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Psychosocial laws may encourage political risks

In December, Australian law firm Maddocks launched its 2023 Year in Review. Two items were directly relevant to occupational health and safety (OHS) – Sexual Harassment and Psychosocial Safety – both addressed by Catherine Dunlop. The size of the challenge ahead on both these topics was shown by the Australian Financial Review on December 7, 2023:

“Fewer than half of directors are confident their companies will be able to adhere to new workplace sexual harassment standards when they come into force next week, with just one in five female directors saying their boards understand the requirements of the new regime.”

Outside of the Maddocks launch, there is also some speculation that Victoria’s proposed psychosocial regulations may never happen.

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Billable hours are unsafe

Late last week, it was announced that prominent lawyer Michael Tooma was leaving Clyde & Co for a position with Hamilton Locke, focussing on environment, social, and governance matters. This is interesting in one way, as lawyers move firms regularly, but his comments about the social harm from law firms’ reliance on billable hours was more interesting.

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