Matthew Peacock is an award-winning Australian journalist and one of the very few in Australia who can bring an informed and nuanced perspective to the topic of occupational health and safety (OHS). Last week he was invited to speak at the dinner of the Safety Institute of Australia‘s Conference. According to some delegates, he roasted the OHS profession; to others, he set the profession a deserved challenge.
On 12 December 2017, part of Australia’s screen and television industry held a forum in Sydney about sexual harassment in the sector and what could be done to reduce this workplace hazard. This initiative occurred a day before an open letter was published about sexual harassment in the music industry. There is a momentum for change on sexual harassment in the workplace, but it is at risk of resulting in a fragmented approach which will generate turf wars, confusion and, ultimately, ineffectiveness.
The current edition of SouthAsia magazine has a short report on occupational health and safety (OHS) in Bangladesh that illustrate the political and social challenges for workers and citizens in a country. The article, “Poor Workplace Safety” (not available online) states that government data for 2016 list more than 1,225 workers killed and over 500 injured. After these figures, and the fact that Bangladesh has a history of catastrophic workplace disasters, the author, Mohammad Waqar Bilal, states
“In fact, the issue of workers’ safety has never been considered by the government on a priority basis.”
According to the Canberra Times, a company board has been served with an improvement notice over inadequate attention to workplace bullying claims in a retirement home. The ABC television program, 7.30, has followed up workplace bullying claims aired earlier this month with a further case on 25 September 2012 with savage criticism of WorkSafe Victoria’s actions in the case.
The Australian Government has completed the public hearings of its Parliamentary Inquiry into workplace bullying. Bullying is everywhere but little seems to be happening to address the various elements and deficiencies of the regulatory system.
On 21 September 2012 the WorkSafe ACT Commissioner warned about inaction on workplace bullying:
“If bullying has not occurred, then a properly conducted investigation should find that… If, on the other hand, an independent investigation substantiates the allegations, then the employer will be in a position to act to protect their workers from any ongoing threat to their health and safety.” Continue reading “Momentum increases for tangible action on workplace bullying”
Workplace bullying is a hazard that must be recognized, addressed and punished, but above all prevented. “Brodie’s Law” was always going to be a part of this challenge but never the solution.
Today’s Age newspaper bemoans the fact that “Brodie’s Law” has not been applied since its introduction 12 months ago. This is not surprising and the article provides some clues to why.
The application of this law seems now to be mainly intended for the Victorian Police force and, as with any police force, there are a great many items on their agenda of which workplace bullying is only one.
Policing and harm prevention
It can also be asked why the Victorian Police force is policing a workplace issue? Workplace safety is principally the responsibility of the employer or, in the new language, person conducting a business or undertaking. The bullies and employer involved in the bullying of Brodie Panlock were prosecuted under occupational health and safety law, not the Crimes Act. Continue reading “Brodie’s Law not being applied. Perhaps a broader context is needed.”