In November 2016, 53-year old Paula Schubert hanged herself. On July 25 2018 the Northern Territory Coroner Greg Cavanagh described the behaviour of managers at her employer, the Norther Territory Department of Children and Families/Territory Families as bullying.
The full Coronial Findings are an important read for any organisation to understand how managerial activities and attitudes can negatively affect workers.
Western Australia’s Parliament heard more about the State’s investigation into work-related mental health on June 26 2018.
The guidance on workplace psychological health and safety forecast by Safe Work Australia’s Peta Miller was released on June 14 2018. There is potential for this guidance to change how mental health is managed and, most importantly, prevented in Australian workplaces.
It is important to note that “Work-related psychological health and safety – a systematic approach to meeting your duties” has been developed with the involvement and approval of all of Australia’s occupational health and safety (OHS) or work health and safety (WHS) regulatory bodies. Workplace mental health promoters and resilience peddlers are unlikely to find much support in this document as the prevention of harm is the benchmark.
The guidance is also intended to operate in support
Data about occupational health and safety (OHS) and work-related psychosocial injuries has often been described as being hard to find. In some ways it is not necessarily hard to find but difficult to access. An untapped source of data is the records of illness and leave taken that is usually held by the Human Resources (HR) departments, often named “People and Culture”or some variant. This type of data could be invaluable in determining a workplace psychological profile, if the HR departments would trust OHS professionals more, or release this data in a format that would allow OHS professionals to assess risks while maintaining employees’ privacy.
Beware, Generalisations Ahead
In Australia, employees are usually entitled to ten days’ sick leave, five of which require a medical certificate. This means that one of the forty-eight expected working weeks may be taken off by workers with no reason provided to the employer other than a call or a text saying “I’m not coming into work today because I am not feeling well.” Australian slang describes this as “chucking a sickie”.
Peta Miller has worked at Safe Work Australia (SWA) for around 17 years. She leaves there at the end of June. One of her last public appearances for SWA was the National Health and Safety Conference in Melbourne in May 2018 at which she provided an outline of the new work-related psychological injuries guidance that has been signed-off by SWA but not yet released to the public.
This guide is said to be a large one but not one that requires a re-education on safety and psychological terms. There is discussion about applying the risk management Hierarchy of Controls to psychosocial hazard identification, the prevention of psychological harm through the design of good work and the identification of psychological hazards without the need to diagnose a medical condition.