Final Sexual Harassment Inquiry report

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“The Sex Discrimination Commissioner has come out with something that is clear, which is that sexual harassment is a workplace right, is a health and safety right, is a human right.” [??!!]

What would be more accurate and reflective of Michele O’Neil’s position is that workers have a human, health and safety, and workplace right to a workplace that is without the risk of sexual harassment.  The ACTU President gets the message right in the official media release.

O’Neill urges the Morrison Government to take the final report into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces and its recommendations seriously and it should, but the signs are not good.  The mainstream media coverage of the Workplace Sexual Harassment Inquiry’s report has been thin. 

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Resilience training remains contentious

The issue of resilience training and its role in managing workplace mental health continues to confuse at a recent mental health conference.

Yesterday, several experts were critical of resilience training or, more accurately, the over-reliance on worker-focussed interventions when evidence shows that more sustainable benefits are obtainable by addressing the structural factors leading to poor mental health at work. One of the experts specifically said that resilience training may be relevant to emergency services workers where their workplaces are so dynamic that it is almost impossible to anticipate mental health hazards.

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What does a psychological near miss look like?

This week a workplace mental conference has been running in Sydney with some excellent speakers. The theme is to improve integrated approaches to workplace mental health in the belief that progress can be most effective when workplace silos and professional disciplines share information and actively listen.

However, resistance to change continues and silos continue to exist even if the interconnecting bridges are half-formed. One half-formed bridge was illustrated when I put this question to a panel discussion:

“What does a psychological near-miss look like?”

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Government responds to the mental health risks of emergency service workers

In 2018/19 one of Australia’s Senate Committees looked at the mental health of emergency responders. The final report was handed down in February 2019 and the government’s response has been released today, twelve months later (?!). Lucky the government delayed as it allowed the Response to mention the 2019/20 bushfires even though this was outside the timeline of the Committee’s inquiry.

Emergency Responders, as do frontline soldiers, face unique psychological risks from their duties, so there are some recommendations that are difficult for those outside the sector to relate to but looking at the Response gives an insight into the thinking about occupational health and safety (OHS), and especially workplace mental health risks, of the Australian government. That thinking may be summarised by the Government supporting only one of the fourteen recommendations, noting five of them and supporting “in principle” the rest.

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We’ve had enough awareness, now act

Mental health and burnout are workplace hazards with which many companies and workers are struggling. No matter what international or national organisations say about the hazard, it remains difficult to implement positive change at the workplace level. It is not helped by mainstream media articles that claim to prevent burnout and then provide very little information about how to prevent it.

A recent article in The Times, and reproduced today in The Australian, written by John Naish, is an example. The original article was headlined “How to prevent burnout at work”. This was retitled “Workplace burnout can lead to numerous serious health issues — and even premature death” in The Australian” (both are paywalled).

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