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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Quad Bike Safety Standard compliance and media accuracy

It is reasonable to claim that the quad bike safety controversy has been resolved in Australia through the intervention of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the imposition of a national safety standard. However, the occupational health and safety (OHS) message continues to be murkier than necessary when quad bikes are advertised in some of the agricultural media without critical safety devices.

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WHO says burnout is occupational, but at least one psychologist says WHO is wrong

The cover story of the February 2024 edition of Psychology Today is less a story than a collection of short pieces on mental health and burnout. This blog may seem unfairly critical of much of the psychological discussion on burnout but this is largely because the World Health Organisation (WHO) has defined burnout as an occupational phenomenon and “is not classified as a medical condition”. The popular literature on mental health and its workplace context almost entirely overlooks these two elements – a literature that is often the first destination for people trying to understand their workplace distress. Sometimes, popular literature is unhelpful.

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The Spiritualism of HR

“Trust us” is one of the riskiest phrases anyone can use. It may be even riskier to accept it. In workplaces, it is often the start of a relationship, but it can also be the start of betrayal. Part of the risk in starting any new job is that new employees must accept their introductions in good faith, and most introductions are handled by the Human Resources department but is that faith misplaced? Recently, one socialist journal from the United States (yes, the US has a socialist sub-culture …. for the moment), Jacobin, included an article about HR in its religion-themed edition (paywalled).

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New Australian film on farming life and mental health

Just a Farmer” is an extraordinary independent Australian film about an all too common occurrence on farms – suicide. The filmmakers have built a strong media profile over the last few months, emphasising the significance of a psychosocial work-related condition. But the film is much more than a film about mental health

Note: this article mentions suicide

There are two possible approaches to this film – a story about the realities of farm life and a depiction of mental ill-health. That both these overlapping approaches are satisfied by this film is a mark of a successful story and production.

The movie opens in over 100 Australian cinema screens on March 21, 2024.

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Trade union organiser jumps the gun on Industrial Manslaughter after mine rockfall

Last week, a miner, Kurt Hourigan, died in a rockfall in a gold mine in the rural city of Ballarat. Another was rescued, and over twenty work colleagues were able to access a safety pod and exit the mine later.

Accusations of mismanagement and deficient occupational health and safety (OHS) practices are rife. The media coverage of the disaster and its aftermath reflects the days immediately after the Beaconsfield Mine Disaster in Tasmania in 2006, where the trade union, the Australian Workers Union (AWU), dominated the provision of information. But why is the AWU calling for a prosecution for Industrial Manslaughter? And why now? Isn’t there a stronger OHS message available?

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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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