Australian research into corporate culture and mental health

In December 2019, it was announced that Professor Maureen Dollard had received funding to investigate “the impact of toxic workplaces on mental health”. The significance of this research is evident in the University of South Australia media release which describes this research as the “first of its kind in the world.

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Recognition for hard work and inspiration

There seems to be a spate of intelligent and knowledgeable people talking about the structural changes required by businesses to reduce and prevent psychological harm. Two Australian voices are Lucinda Brogden and Dr Rebecca Michalak. New Zealand has Dr Hillary Bennett who recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the New Zealand Workplace Health and Safety Awards. Bennett’s interview with SafeGuard magazine should be obligatory reading.

Bennett is asked about the Human Resource (HR) profession and nails a critical difference in the HR approach to the occupational health and safety (OHS) one:

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Even neuroscience needs sociology

Summer in Australia means a lot of time traveling in a car, often to the extent of completing an abridged audiobook and/or several podcasts.  One episode of BBC’s The World This Week caught my ear, not because it is titled “Australia Burning” but for the opinion piece by Martin Bashir (17 minute mark). Bashir discusses mid-life crises, risk aversion and neuroplasticity. I look at the relevance to occupational health and safety.

Bashir spoke about the importance of challenging oneself, especially at “an age of comfort” (my term) an achievement. This may not seem related to OHS, the raison d’être of this blog, but the age of comfort can be defined as an age of safety or risk aversion, or as Bashir says “a mechanism for self-protection”, and this period in our lives may bleed into the way we see the world, the type of OHS advice we may provide our clients and, perhaps, the way that our OHS legislation is constructed.

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Look deeper and read wider when trying to understand

This Forbes article on the France Telecom suicides, written by Jack Kelly, is doing the rounds on LinkedIn with various lessons identified by various commentators. Sadly Kelly dilutes the significance of the suicides and the jailing of executives by implying that the action in France is a special case, as if the executives were trapped by employment laws into taking the actions that led to the extreme anxiety felt by France Telecom’s workers.

Kelly’s concluding paragraph is unnecessarily equivocal:

“The trial shows that managers waging a campaign of harassment against employees could establish a precedent in France and other countries. It may serve as a strong warning to corporate executives and management that their actions have severe consequences. Pushing employees too hard may result in serious consequences for both the workers and the purveyors of the punishing behaviors.”

Kelly use of “may” weakens the significance of the executive’ actions, the successful prosecution and the jail sentences. Why write that this may happen when the article is about a real case of cause and effect between executive strategy and suicide? Surely “may” should have been “can”.

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Most-read OHS articles in 2019

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This past week most media have been reflecting on the last twelve months or the decade. There are two ways of applying this practice to the SafetyAtWorkBlog – statistics and most-read. Let’s look at statistics first.

This year the SafetyAtWorkBlog posted 225 articles, not including this one, with an average word count of 1,030 words – the equivalent of a 230,000 word book on occupational health and safety (OHS). For those Annual subscribers that equates to just over $1.00 per article which I think is a pretty good return.

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