Jessie Singer and the “social autopsy”

I am halfway through an extraordinary book called “There Are No Accidents –
The Deadly Rise of Injury and Disaster—Who Profits and Who Pays the Price
” by Jessie Singer. It is extraordinary in many ways, but the most significant is that Singer chose to write a book for the general reader about how people are hurt at work, home and when driving and how describing these as “accidents” deflects responsibility, as if there was nothing that could be done to prevent them. This is of huge significance to the advocates of work health and safety, and the book’s release should spark interviews with Singer and book reviews which could lead to a broader social discussion of safety.

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Notifiable psych injuries may be what’s needed

Recently the Victorian Government proposed six-monthly reports on psychologically hazardous incidents from employers to the OHS regulator, WorkSafe. The aim is to improve the pool of data available to the government in order to tailor harm prevention and reduction initiatives and a red tape campaign from employers is expected. These incident summaries are not the same as reporting a Notifiable Incident to WorkSafe but the notifiable incidents categories are overdue for a review and, maybe, an expansion.

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What does the IPCC report on climate change say about work?

Global warming will affect the way we work.  This was acknowledged in the most recent report from the International Panel on Climate Change.  The 3,676-page report cited several research papers related to these changes.  Below is a list of those papers and comments on the abstracts, where available.

Vanos, J., D. J. Vecellio and T. Kjellstrom, 2019: Workplace heat exposure, health protection, and economic impacts: A case study in Canada. Am. J. Ind. Med., 62(12), 1024-1037, doi:10.1002/ajim.22966.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30912193/

This abstract recommends “Providing worksite heat metrics to the employees aids in appropriate decision making and health protection.” This research adds to one’s state of knowledge but may not help with which on-the-ground decisions need to be made.

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What is a psychological incident?

The Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) for Victoria’s draft Psychological Health Regulation does not seem to define what is meant by a psychosocial incident. (If I have missed it, please include a reference in the comments section below) In trying to establish a workplace mental health demographic, the RIS states that:

“As there is currently no legislative reporting requirements for psychosocial incidents, voluntary calls received by WorkSafe’s advisory service have been used as a proxy to estimate the prevalence of psychosocial incidents in the workplace.”

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It is a pretty fluffy determination that the RIS accepts, further illustrating the need for additional data. The advisory service figures record 80% of psychosocial calls relate to bullying.

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Is red tape justified?

One of the interesting features of the Psychological Health regulations proposed by the Victorian Government last month is the requirement for employers to provide regular six-monthly reports on psychological incidents.

The Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) states that:

“…the proposed regulatory amendments will require employers to keep written records of prevention plans for prescribed psychosocial hazards and impose reporting requirements on medium and large employers.”

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Is work health and safety “woke”?

Occupational health and safety (OHS) has always been progressive in that its purpose is to prevent harm to workers and people. It has lost its way sometimes and its effectiveness diluted at other times, but its core purpose has remained. At the moment, there is an ideological, political and cultural resistance to progressive structures and ideas that is often criticised as being “woke”. Woke has an evolving meaning, but it seems to mean well-intended but ineffective.

Recently Australian academic Carl Rhodes examined “woke capitalism” in a new book. Refreshingly Rhodes provides an analysis of woke capitalism rather than a rabid critique. OHS is not the focus of this book (when is it ever?), but his research and perspectives are relevant to how OHS is practiced and the level of influence we believe it deserves.

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If the research is clear, why aren’t employers reacting?

Excessive working hours are harmful. This uncomfortable truth was recently spoken by the Harvard Business Review. The changes to prevent this harm is obvious to most of us involved with health and safety but remains uncomfortable to everyone else.

In an article called “The Research is Clear: Long Hours Backfire for People and for Companies, Sarah Green Carmichael posits three reasons for overwork:

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