Call for change on sexual harassment could use support from OHS

Discussion on the sexual harassment allegations against former High Court judge Dyson Heydon continue even though some Australian States’ media have returned to COVID19 clusters and football. On July 6, 2020, five hundred women in the legal profession published an open letter calling for

“… wider reforms to address the high incidence of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct in the legal profession”

The signatories call for an independent complaints body for the Australian judiciary and changes to the appointment of judges. What is missing is Prevention.

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Lancing the boil of sexual harassment

The Australian Institute of Safety and Health’s online national conference offered some big topics this year. One of the most anticipated was the discussion of sexual harassment in the workplace. Luckily the panel discussion included big hitters such as Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins whose week was about to get a lot busier with the revelations of sexual harassment by Australia’s High Court Justice Dyson Heydon.

The Dyson Heydon sexual harassment accusations, which he emphatically denies, were revealed in an independent investigation for the High Court of Australia. The Justice Heydon case has generated copious media attention for many reasons including his prominence in a politically-charged Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption. His sexual harassment offences are awful, but the most startling revelations are not necessarily about one man’s inappropriate actions. Here was an organisational, maybe even a professional, culture that permitted this behaviour to continue unchallenged for many many years. It is this context that, I believe, offers the most significant lessons for the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession and where OHS skills can help others.

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OHS, sexual harassment, HR and the pursuit of prevention

HRDaily unlocked an article concerning workplace sexual harassment on March 6 2020. The article was written by lawyer Fay Calderone and SafetyAtWorkBlog sought clarification from her on a number of points.

Some of the issues raised in the original article and Calderone’s responses will be discussed in a secondary article.

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Is Industrial Manslaughter an empty vessel?

The Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) has published a long article about Australia’s Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws. It is a very good article but includes a lot of information that should already be familiar to those who have followed the development of IM laws over the last two decades.

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Sexual harassment changes are percolating slowly

Discussion on the report into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces went missing last weekend which included International Women’s Day. March 8 generalised much of the discussion on the need for new approaches to feminism, wages and gender equity. This is not to say that organisations had forgotten about the National Inquiry’s Final Report or the occupational health and safety (OHS) context, but few were as blunt about the issue as broadcaster Virginia Trioli and workplace lawyer Liberty Sanger on ABC radio this week.

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Can poor safety management = negligence?

L to R: Catherine Dunlop and Dale McQualter

In relation to the release, last week, of the Brady Review SafetyAtWorkBlog wondered:

“It is worth asking whether a reliance on Administrative Controls could be interpreted as a level of negligence that could spark an Industrial Manslaughter prosecution.”

A seminar hosted by law firm Maddocks this week offered an opportunity to pose this as a question.

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Industrial Manslaughter – politics, suicide and misrepresentation

The 2020 business year has started with a bunch of occupational health and safety (OHS) seminars. Given last year’s moves towards Industrial Manslaughter laws in several Australian States, a discussion of these laws is inevitable and there are some voices calling out the politics of the issue. Herbert Smith Freehills’ Steve Bell is one of them.

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