Is Victoria still committed to its psychosocial regulations?

Victoria’s Minister for WorkSafe, Danny Pearson, has emerged from the occupational health and safety (OHS) wilderness to restate his commitment to introducing legislative amendments on psychosocial hazards at work. He has been stalling on these for a very long time, but he has recently provided an update to Parliament.

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“Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… MASS HYSTERIA!”

Victorian businesses and occupational health and safety (OHS) people are hungry for advice about managing psychosocial hazards at work if the scenes at today’s Work Health and Safety show were any indication. The sad part of the popularity of the topic is that some of the advice being given is wrong or outdated.

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Hits and misses at Melbourne’s worker memorial

For the first time, the International Workers’ Memorial Day in Melbourne, Victoria, occurred in a park without a memorial stone with its anachronist crucifix motif. It was also thankfully sunny. The traditional location for the event in the shadow of Trades Hall was sometimes bitterly cold. The changed location was the most obvious difference to the previous ceremonies. It remains very much a trade union event when it could be so much more inclusive, even if not apolitical.

The absence of the Minister of WorkSafe, Danny Pearson, increased the focus of attention on the CEO of WorkSafe Victoria, Colin Radford. Radford’s speech was curious, with many commitments that are hard to satisfy.

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Getting the (political) balance right

One can never accuse politicians of deep or systems thinking on the issues and policies for which they are responsible. Victoria’s Minister for WorkSafe, Danny Pearson, spoke at a press conference on March 6, 2023, about the viability of the workers’ compensation systems, which he described as broken, during a substantial increase in claims for workplace mental injury. Premier Dan Andrews has spoken of this matter since and with a similar perspective – politics rather than occupational health and safety (OHS).

How this issue develops over the next month may determine who speaks for the government at the April 28 Workers Memorial event.

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Awards Night speeches

The WorkSafe Victoria Awards Night for 2022 contained three main speeches:

Pearson

Pearson’s speech contained a couple of elements that implied it was written by someone without a deep understanding or history of OHS in Victoria. He mentioned “Kaizen” which was a blast from the past, being associated with lots of Lean managements and Six Sigmas. These concepts are rarely heard of in OHS circles now, perhaps because the Kaizen focus in Australia was often on individual workers and efforts rather than systems of work. Pearson said:

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