The Victorian Parliament has been debating legislation the government claims is essential to fix a “broken” workers’ compensation system. There are a lot of elements to what is broken – premium increases, political access to WorkSafe finances, political topping up of WorkSafe finances, high numbers and costs for workplace mental health compensation claims and more. What is largely missing is a discussion on the prevention of mental health injuries at work.
Many employers are continuing to pimp up their well-being programs and employer benefits with the intention of managing mental health pressures. This is often based on advice from multinational business advisory and consulting firms in the form of trend surveys and reports about business attitudes, fears and concerns. A recent report from Mercer was the basis for an article in the Australian Financial Review (AFR, paywalled) written by Euan Black. It is instructive to subject the article and the Mercer report to a little scrutiny to determine their usefulness.
Long working hours and the billable hours structure received some attention in the prominent business newspaper. the Australian Financial Review, on November 11,2023. Unsurprisingly the article, by Edmund Tadros, about former Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick has garnered attention in the business social media. The article reinforces the unsafe nature of the dominant management practices in white-collar workplaces.
Safety signs can be a mix of symbols, colours and words. On a recent vacation in the United Kingdom, I saw a configuration of pedestrian crossing signs that challenged my interpretation of signs I had seen since I was a child. I wondered if this new configuration still communicated the essential safety message.
Late last week, it was announced that prominent lawyer Michael Tooma was leaving Clyde & Co for a position with Hamilton Locke, focussing on environment, social, and governance matters. This is interesting in one way, as lawyers move firms regularly, but his comments about the social harm from law firms’ reliance on billable hours was more interesting.
South Australia’s Industrial Manslaughter Bill is being negotiated in its Parliament. New South Wales’ version is in development, and Tasmania has said it does not want to be left out, so the government has flagged its intention to have Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws. Each politician stresses the importance of these laws to deter employers from doing the wrong thing and causing the death of a worker. However, there are serious concerns about the intended deterrent effect when other occupational health and safety (OHS) measures have been shown to be more effective.
Caesarstone Asia Pacific managing director David Cullen told the Australian Financial Review (AFR – paywalled) on October 27, 2023, that:
“A full ban on the use of engineered stone would double the cost of benchtops..”
So? That seems to be enough of a reason to continue to allow the use of a product that is causing a large number of preventable deaths in Australia and elsewhere??!!
A stronger argument may be that the occupational health and safety (OHS) management of the cutting of engineered stone has failed.