HR inching its way to an OHS epiphany

A new Human Resources (HR) article shows some promise in addressing the institutional factors that lead to poor mental health in workers.

The website for Human Resources Director asks, “Should HR be concerned about employee economic insecurity?” I would ask, “how can it not be?” given that Australian research over the last twenty years and international research since early last century has identified that job insecurity is one of several major factors in poor mental health for workers and other occupational health and safety (OHS) outcomes. HR should also be anticipating a renewed duty of care from the upcoming national OHS regulations on psychologically healthy workplaces.

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Political point-scoring misses the point

Last week the Australian Financial Review (AFR) caused a bit of a political stink by reporting that:

“….Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the share of casual employment was 22.8 per cent in February – 1.3 percentage points lower than in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit the economy.
The casualisation rate is 4.8 percentage points below the peak of 27.6 per cent in 2003.”

AFR, April 12 2022 – Albanese’s casual jobs claim is ‘wrong’, according to ABS data

The figures seem accurate but do not tell the whole story. How are employment statistics relevant to occupational health and safety (OHS)? Job insecurity is a significant factor in work-related mental health.

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Industrial Manslaughter, psychologically safe workplaces and insecure work – just another day in the Senate

Australia has entered a federal election campaign, but the mechanics of the Australian parliament continued, and various occupational health and safety (OHS) comments were voiced in Senate Estimates. These comments touched on Industrial Manslaughter, regulations on psychologically safe workplaces and insecure work.

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Nobody hates ‘”reasonably practicable” – we tolerate it

Do unions want employers to hold an absolute duty of care for work health and safety? Do unions hate the concept “as far as is reasonably practicable”?

The last Australian jurisdiction to hold employers to an absolute duty of care was New South Wales. That position was eroded by the harmonisation process and NSW OHS laws moving to the Work Health and Safety regime. An absolute duty of care, in the SafetyAtWorkBlog dictionary, is that the employer is responsible for any injuries occurring at work.

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Why don’t we act on the evidence?

Several years ago, I worked for an organisation that handed out awards for exceptional efforts and achievements. One time the award was given to a worker who had worked in the office for most of the weekend to meet a semi-important deadline. I was horrified as that worker had sacrificed important “downtime” with family friends and his own welfare with no time in lieu. But he was lauded by the boss.

Rewarding those who sacrifice their own health and safety for the apparent good of the company must change as there is increasing evidence that working long hours increases serious health risks. An extensive research project for the World Health Organisation has found:

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It’s all about the context

Occupational health and safety (OHS) should prevent any of its conference speakers from ever using the image of an iceberg or a triangle to illustrate managerial theories. The images are valid but have been done to death in conferences over the last decade.

I came to this position when recently reading a very short article on Systems Thinking by Veronica Hotton in Dumbo Feather magazine. Hotton used the iceberg as a visual metaphor for what can be seen and what is less visible but equally influential and much larger than the visible top.

Her article is a very good, succinct explanation of systems thinking for the general reader, but I was less interested in the iceberg and more in the ocean.

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No fanfare for Victoria’s workers’ compensation review

This week the Victorian Government released Peter Rozen‘s report called Improving the experience of injured workers: A review of WorkSafe Victoria’s management of complex workers’ compensation claims. The public release has been long anticipated as it has been sitting with the Minister for Workplace Safety, Ingrid Stitt, since April 2021.

The Review was forced on the Government after the second damning report on WorkSafe Victoria’s performance from Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass. In some ways, Rozen’s report can be seen as the third report into the Victorian workers’ compensation scheme.

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