Where’s the harm in bullying?

The West Australian Government has released its the report on its Ministerial Review of the State Industrial Relations System. There are a few interesting bits that relate to occupational health and safety (OHS) and bullying.

The Fair Work Commission has been able to accept applications to stop workplace bullying for a few years now. Western Australia’s State system will soon also allow this, if the Government accepts the recommendations, but workplace bullying is a little different from the OHS approach. The report says:

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What was overlooked during Budget week

Last week the Australian media was dominated by discussions on the Federal Budget and it being the precursor to a Federal Election in May 2019. But there were several actions in the few scheduled days of Parliament which relate to occupational health and safety (OHS). Below is a summary of some of them.

Labour Hire

In support of the Morrison Government Budget, Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations, Kelly O’Dwyer, issued a media release stating that in response to Migrant Workers Taskforce Report, the Government (should it be re-elected, in reality) will establish:

“….a National Labour Hire Registration Scheme to ensure compliance and transparency in the labour hire industry in high-risk sectors;”

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Good, but very limited, advice on workplace mental health

Member magazines, those magazines included in a professional’s membership, are an important source of information. Members of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, for instance, receive the RoyalAuto magazine which is really the primary source of information on changes to road rules. Most occupational health and safety (OHS) associations have internal magazines for a similarly targeted audience. Australian accountants have the In The Black magazine.

Recently In The Black published an article about mental health at work titled “Get smart with mental health”. No background to the author, Helen Hawkes, was provided and no references were included for the data used to support statements about the importance of the mental health. Context and sources are important to all articles but arguably moreso for member magazines and, especially, for professionals like accountants who can have a major impact on how OHS is managed.

Much of the information in the article would be familiar to OHS professionals – Return on Investment, the cost of Presenteeism as a percentage of payroll…. What is almost entirely missing is advice on how to prevent mental ill-health from occurring in the first place, and there is no mention of any of the OHS guidance in this area published by Safe Work Australia.

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Answers and clues on workplace bullying and mental health in a small package

Talking about occupational health and safety (OHS) is a critical element so explaining the concept but also strengthening OHS as more and more people understand its socio-economic and organisational context. Sometime this is done through newsletters from OHS Regulators, sometimes by large and/or expensive conferences. Sometimes all of this still fails to reach the right audience.

Mark Stipic, Antony Malmo and Michael Plowright

Last week a small seminar was held in the Melbourne suburb of Mulgrave. That seminar was no more than 90 minutes and provided advice from three experts in OHS-related topics related to workplace bullying. These were the psychology of workplace bullying, the management and prevention of it and workers compensation for the resultant mental ill-health.

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Family violence at work, looking at trees instead of forest

Victoria’s Minister for Workplace Safety, Jill Hennessy, has released a media statement about the occupational health and safety (OHS) context of family violence, referencing a WorkSafe Victoria guidance note from January 2018.

Hennessy is quoted saying:

“Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for their employees – and that includes doing whatever they can to support workers experiencing family violence.”

But what level or type of support is expected from employers? Family violence is damaging and insidious but also a crime. It is also a subset, or maybe a special type, of workplace violence as is evident by WorkSafe’s reference to its broader violence publication at the end of the family violence guidance note. The publication, A guide for employers Preventing and responding to work-related violence, outlines the employers duty of care, which includes prevention.

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