Another burnout book from the US that ignores OHS duties

Advisory books about how to manage Burnout continue to be published. Another one that, due to the format and publisher, could be influential is Burnout for Dummies by Eva Selhub. Sadly, Selhub consciously downplays the occupational health and safety (OHS) role in preventing Burnout. Her choice sidelines OHS, the organisational context and the employer’s duty of care, but that seems typical for Burnout authors from the United States.

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Organisational and self-help advice on burnout

One of the best books about burnout is Jennifer Moss‘ “The Burnout Epidemic“, which this blog wrote about in April last year. A recent book on burnout and self-help caused me to revisit Moss’ book, and one of the chapters that I missed last year seems to explain the popularity of the self-help approach.

Moss writes about the organisational and structural workplace factors that create and perpetuate workplace stress and related poor mental health. However, one of the last chapters is titled “Take Care of Yourself, Too”. Moss writes:

“Self-care won’t fix broken organizational systems, but it’s the part we can control in a world full of the uncontrollable.”

page 213
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Mental health book should be influential due to lack of bullshit

Some of the recent guidance on mental health at work from occupational health and safety (OHS) regulators is not scintillating or even engaging. Their purpose is to provide information with the hope it is presented in a workplace by someone super-communicative and influential. (C’mon, really? We’re talking about OHS here.)

Luckily there is a recent easy-to-read book of fewer than 150 pages that reads like a conversation over a single afternoon with the reader about Mental Health At Work.

Continue reading “Mental health book should be influential due to lack of bullshit”

Don’t mention profit

The primacy of profit to employers is an accepted truth. However, the size of the profit and the pathway to those profits are not absolutes, and it is in this latter context that occupational health and safety (OHS) lives.

Even though profit is a business truth, it is often a word that business representatives seem to fear. They speak of profit through synonyms like “productivity” and “competitiveness”. An example of this timidity or wariness was displayed recently by prominent businessman Michael Angwin in an opinion piece in the Australian Financial Review (paywalled) that contained many other cautious words of business jargon. Angwin misses the harm to workers and others generated by the world as he sees it.

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Who’s to blame?

All occupational health and safety (OHS) advocates should be reading the work of Jordan Barab. His latest article on “blaming the workers” for their own incidents is a great example of his writing. The article also illustrates one of the things about OHS that really gets up the noses of employers – if we don’t blame the workers, we have to blame the employers. An Australian answer to the situation would be Yeah, Nah.

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Revisiting the sociology of work

I am always surprised how few people who talk about workplace and safety cultures seem not to have read the great sociologists of culture. Raymond Williams was important when I studied sociology and literature at university in the 1980s. I was reminded of his importance by this article in Catalyst.

As neoliberalism experiences a decline in influence on governments and corporations, it is useful to look at the sociology of culture from the pre-neoliberalism days, even if only dipping into my bookshelves. The Catalyst article opens with this:

“Raymond Williams hasn’t survived the cultural turn intact. Even though he was instrumental in foregrounding the significance of culture in human affairs, his materialist methodology and commitment to socialism jarred against the textualism and cultural relativism of the last three decades. The rise of neoliberalism had an effect as well. It undercut the values of cooperation and solidarity that were key to postwar radical intellectuals like Williams. But a Williams revival is finally underway.”

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C-Suite is disinterested in OHS

Consulting firm KPMG has released its annual survey report on the concerns of corporate executives called “Keeping us up at night – The big issues facing business leaders in 2023”. Occupational health and safety (OHS) fails to get a mention. (So much for the attitudinal impact of Industrial Manslaughter laws!) But then neither does “mental health” nor “sexual harassment“.

The KPMG report may accurately reflect executive priorities, but it may also reflect a denial of reality.

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