This Sunday SafetyAtWorkBlog will be reporting from the 2018 National Conference of the Australian Labor Party (ALP). It promises to be extra lively as the country is only a few months away from a General Election and the ALP is tipped by most to win, or rather, the Liberal/National Coalition to lose. The intention is to watch for discussion of issues that relate to, or affect, the management of worker health and safety. There will be some, if one accepts that the most effective and sustainable occupational health and safety (OHS) solutions come from both a introduce multidisciplinary approach and that one that looks “at the source” of hazards.
The current draft National platform has a specific chapter on Safety At Work but the document is riddled with safety commitments. Curiously there is no specific mention of Industrial Manslaughter, although the ALP will
“ensure there are strong deterrents for employers who are responsible for workplace deaths”.
The trade union movement has often been instrumental in affecting and sometimes creating government policy on occupational health and safety (OHS). The latest generation of hazards – psychosocial – can be traced back to a survey late last century of workplace stress conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). This week the ACTU released its survey into sexual harassment at work.
The current survey should not be seen as representative of any social group other than trade union members even though the survey was completed by 10,000 of them. Also, this survey is far less likely to be as newsworthy as last century’s surveys as the agenda on workplace sexual harassment has already been established by reports from groups like Universities Australia and, especially, the current work by the Sexual Discrimination Commissioner and the Australian Human Rights Commission. It is also likely to be covered, probably as a secondary issue, in the various mental health inquiries scheduled for 2019.
The ACTU survey provides additional information to our understanding of sexual harassment at work but certainly not the whole picture.
Earlier this week former chair of the Australian Government’s National Mental Health Commission, Allan Fels (pictured right) addressed a lunch hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. The topicality of his presentation stemmed from two major inquiries into mental health – one by the Federal Government and undertaken by the Productivity Commission (PC), the other is a Royal Commission from the Victorian Government. The breadth of the Terms of Reference (ToR) of the PC inquiry has generated a very broad level of interest across the social spectrum. The Royal Commission ToR are yet to be released.
Fels acknowledged the role that workplaces have in addressing mental health
This article is part two of an edited version of a keynote presentation I made at the a special WHS Inspectors Forum organised by WorkSafe Tasmania. The audience comprised inspectors from around Australia and New Zealand. I was asked to be provocative and challenging so posed some questions to the audience about how occupational health and safety (OHS) is managed, regulated and inspected.
The audio of the presentation is available at
One of the Commissioners of Australia’s Productivity Commission (PC), Julie Abramson, spoke briefly at a lunchtime seminar on Mental Health and the Economy, hosted by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. It is very early in the PC’s inquiry into the role of improving mental health but Abramson was able to provide some draft timelines.
Abramson told the audience that the Presiding Commissioner on this inquiry