New Zealand leads on wellbeing

A couple of months ago, SafetyAtWorkBlog mentioned New Zealand’s Wellbeing Budget. Last week a representative of the NZ Treasury, Ruth Shinoda, spoke about it from direct experience in Melbourne at the 7th Global Healthy Workplace Summit. The Wellbeing Budget and a complimentary Living Standard Framework provide important contrasts to how Australia is valuing the healthy and safety of its citizens and workers.

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Looks good but could be better

The Australian Financial Review on October 1 2019 contained an exclusive report on consulting firm (paywalled) Deloitte’s approach to mental health at work matters coinciding with National Safe Work Month. The original document is unlikely to be publicly released but Edmund Tadros‘ report provides some quotes and insights. The initiative seems very positive until you consider it in light of organisational changes recommended to control and prevent this psychological hazards from Safe Work Australia (SWA) guidance.

Tadros quotes Deloitte’s Australian CEO Richard Deutsch:

“Mr Deutsch said in the message that individual differences could mean “what I find stressful you may find motivating, and vice versa. I don’t want anyone to feel their health and wellbeing is compromised because of work”.

This broad statement fits with the employer’s duties under occupational health and safety (OHS) laws, so it’s a good start. But doubts about the strategy start to emerged when Deutsch mentions workload, a contentious issue for Deloitte’s junior staff:

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Red Tape comeback

The need to reduce Red Tape is getting another run in Australia through the lobbying of the Business Council 0f Australia and its CEO, Jennifer Westacott. “Red Tape” can be defined in many ways but it is often synonymous with government interference, of which occupational health and safety (OHS) regulation and enforcement is considered part.

In an interview with Laura Tchilinguirian on ABC News Radio on 16 September 2019 Westacott said that the community, which sounds mostly like business people:

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International healthy workplace conference

The wave of workplace wellness cannot be avoided but wellness is only part of achieving safe and healthy workplaces. At the end of October 2019 Melbourne is hosting the 7th Global Healthy Workplace Awards and Summit at Monash University.

Occupational health and safety (OHS) often accuses workplace wellness advocates of providing symptomatic relief instead of addressing issues that cause the un-wellness in the workplace. However the October summit seems to offer deeper analysis on both these perspectives and in the broader context of healthy workplaces.

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The Interconnectedness Challenge

The solutions to most occupational health and safety (OHS) issues are multidisciplinary meaning that solutions are rarely simple and rarely come from a single source of information or knowledge. Recently I have been challenging my colleagues to spread their voices and experience beyond their own disciplines to illustrate how a worker’s health and safety is affected by a broad range of hazards and environments. I extend that challenge to all organisations including employer and industry groups like the Business Council of Australia (BCA) which has recently released a report on “The state of enterprise bargaining in Australia”.

Many organisations undertake research into different elements of work but rarely take an overall perspective, or one that analyses the interconnection of societal and occupational conditions and pressures. The latest BCA report is one example

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Chinese Whispers on drugs and alcohol at work

Evidence-based policy making needs make sure that the evidence is accurate and valid. Evidence is also the foundation of the state of knowledge of the occupational health and safety (OHS) professional, action and regulations. To achieve and sustain these aims and requirements, evidence needs to be questioned in order to verify it.

On July 17 2019 WorkSafe Victoria distributed an email newsletter which stated that

“… 15% of workplace injuries worldwide are caused by alcohol and drug use”

and referencing Comcare as its source. But that source says something significantly different.

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Fence or Ambulance?

The other week Lucinda Brogden, one of Australia’s Mental Health Commissioners participated in a three day suicide prevention conference, concluding the week as a keynote speaker at an occupational health and safety (OHS) seminar. Her commitment to keep focusing on the prevention of harm made her a comfortable fit for the largely OHS audience. Hopefully her influence is big on the Australian mental health policy makers.

Brogden reminded the audience of an 1895 poem by Joseph Malins which discusses the prevention of harm through the analogy of putting a fence at the cliff edge to stop people falling rather than having an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff to collect the dead and injured. It is unlikely that Malins was thinking of workplace safety with this poem but, as a temperance activist, it is certain he was thinking about health. Regardless, the imagery is a useful and simple illustration of the advantages in the prevention of harm, and not just in relation to mental health.

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