Professor Niki Ellis speaks about OHS, CSR and resilience 2

Next week the National Comcare Conference is held in Melbourne Australia.  One of the keynote speakers at the conference is Professor Niki Ellis, a prominent Australian OHS researchers and consultant  who is also heading up the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR).

On a sunny September 5 2011 I was able to spend half and hour with Niki at a noisy cafe outside Victoria’s State Library talking about:

  • The profile of OHS is Australia as a profession
  • The importance of a practical application for OHS research (what Niki refers to as “interventionist research”)
  • The need for innovation in tertiary institutions
  • The legacy of Dame Carol Black’s UK report “Working for a Healthier Tomorrow
  • The challenge for OHS professionals to cope  with emerging psychosocial hazards
  • The role and importance of Corporate Social Responsibility to workplace health and safety
  • The deficiencies of applying resilience to workplace mental health issues

Kevin Jones

Workplace bullying statistics remain muddy 6

A recent article on workplace bullying by the CEO of Diversity Council Australia, Nareen Young, is a good introduction to the issue but, as with many other articles on the issue, the content requires careful consideration.

One statistical resource used on workplace bullying articles is the very important and influential March 2010 Productivity Commission (PC) report – Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation: Occupational Health & Safety.  Predominantly, this report lumps together “harassment”, “occupational violence”, and “fatigue” with “workplace bullying” under the term “psychosocial hazards”.  This means it is impossible to extrapolate data from any specific workplace issue in this category, however the PC report does devote some sections of Chapter 11 specifically to bullying, but even then the statistics are tricky.

Young’s article states that

“Estimates of its [bullying’s] prevalence in the workplace vary, but one study outlined in the Productivity More…

Noticeable increase in workplace mental stress claims 3

Australia’s Comcare agency has identified a “54% increase in mental stress claims” since 2006-2007.  This is of great concern to the agency, which covers the OHS and compensation needs of Australian government agencies and others, as Work Health and Safety General Manager, Neil Quarmby, outlines in a media release on 21 July 2011.

Quarmby states

“Clearly this trend could have serious consequences for employees and employers through serious health issues and a significant loss in productivity. I am keen that employers get the message that health and safety at work is not only a physical issue but also increasingly involves mental health as well…”

The media release has generated some media attention (audio article available HERE) but often this has not focussed on the trend mentioned and instead on an element in the media release that involves the OHS issue-du-jour, workplace bullying. More…

France Telecome’s CSR report is telling but sets high expectations Reply

In 2009, France Telecom’s management practices came to global attention as a result of a spate of over 20 suicides that were identified as work-related.  On 6 June 2011, France Telecom released its Corporate Responsibility Report that covers the period of the management turmoil touched upon in earlier SafetyAtWorkBlog articles.

The document is an impressive document that sets an enormously high benchmark on a range of corporate and personnel issues but one will find no mention of suicides.  The best indication that this was a company in crisis is the level of inquiries, reviews, audits and workplace safety control measures that have been implemented over the last two years.  It is also important to remember that the control measures are designed to bring about a cultural and organisational change to this corporation and that this will take a considerable time.  The struggle can be best, and most tragically, illustrated by the April 2011 self-immolation of a France Telecom employee in the company carpark in Merignac.

By acknowledging that this report has come from a company in crisis it is possible to identify some useful OHS, human resource and organisational cultural initiatives that may be applied in other large corporations around the world. More…

Canada begins developing a National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace 2

Mental health is attracting a huge amount of attention in western countries but much of this has a public health focus.  Workplace mental health is not getting enough attention even though, correctly applied, this collective term could include the occupational hazards of stress, bullying, depression and suicide.

Canada has leapt ahead of most countries by committing to develop a National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace.  According to a backgrounder on the initiative, the Standard

“…will be a stand‐alone voluntary standard. It will provide a methodology that will lead to measureable improvements in psychological health and safety for Canadian employees in their workplaces.”

Significantly, the business case for the Standard is expected to result in

  • enhanced cost effectiveness,
  • improved risk management,
  • increased organizational recruitment and retention [and
  • increased] corporate social responsibility.

This Canadian initiative has considerable merit and may provide the (non-regulatory) glue that is needed to supply a business-friendly management structure for a range of workplace mental health issues that are being combatted in isolation from one another.  Workplace depression is fighting for attention against bullying which is battling out of a subset of stress……… More…