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.”
On Saturday morning, May 26 2012, the Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and her Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, announced an inquiry into workplace bullying to be undertaken by the House Standing Committee on Education and Employment and to report to Parliament in November 2012.
This announcement seems to be another that is buried or overtaken by current political events. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation mentioned workplace bullying as a “silent epidemic”. There is a strong risk that the politicians are overstating the workplace bullying case. WorkSafe Victoria receives thousands of enquiries about workplace bullying but only a portion of them fit the workplace bullying definition and only a handful proceed to a prosecution. The government needs to be careful that it is not operating to a perception of workplace bullying instead of the reality, even though the community outrage is genuinely felt.
The Age newspaper and AAP, basically printed an edited media release but the most significant statements have not been printed. These are the comments by the Prime Minister, Minister Shorten and the parents of Brodie Panlock, Damian and Rae. Below is a selection or statements from the doorstop transcript:
PM : “I’ve have had the opportunity to have a conversation with Damian and with Rae about their family experience and they will talk about that family experience themselves, but it led to the loss of their daughter Brodie. And they fought hard here in Victoria for Brodie’s law, to have a law that deals with serious bullying at work. Continue reading “Workplace bullying hits the national agenda in Australia”
Recently SafetyAtWorkBlog wrote:
“In many industries, and in the safety profession itself, people confuse the OHS laws of injury prevention with the Compensation laws of rehabilitation.”
This misunderstanding also extends to the public. Every so often, this blog receives comments from irate readers who express their frustration with “WorkSafe” or “Workcover”. It is a frustration that is shared by many but the frustration is frequently aimed at the wrong target. Most of the frustration stems from real or perceived injustice in the workers compensation system, but the criticism refers repeatedly to the OHS prevention and enforcement authority. Continue reading “Differentiate the WorkCover and WorkSafe brands”
Relatives of people who have died in workplaces regularly complain about the lack of communication from OHS regulators and other government and legal agencies who are charged with investigating an incident. A recent example of this is Ann Maitland whose daughter, Michelle, died in a gymnastics class in 2009, but Ann Maitland took action and the safety level of gymnastics classes, and many other workplaces, is likely to improve considerably as a result.
Prior to discussing the government’s report into gymnastics safety, it is worth acknowledging the arduous journey that Ann Maitland ( an occasional commenter on this blog) undertook.
In response to complaints by Ann Maitland, the Queensland Department of Justice and Attorney-General engaged conducted an independent review of the actions of Work Health and Safety Queensland (WHSQ) in relation to Michelle Maitland’s death. The review report found that
“A key deficiency highlighted by Mr Byrne was the inadequate communication with Ann Maitland. He further adds that “any similar situation in the future by the creation of the liaison officer position”. In this regard the Investigations Liaison Support Officer position was implemented in January 2011.”
There were several other recommendations from the review for WHSQ to tighten up enforcement procedures. The fact that an independent review was conducted at all is a major win for Ann Maitland and other Queensland families. The fact that such an independent review was required at all should be a matter of great concern. Continue reading “Some journeys should never be needed”