Suicide research and cultural change

I often have my “western” assumptions punctured by evidence from the non-western or majority world.  Recently SafetyAtWorkBlog has reported on workplace suicide statistics but a report made available through the World Health Organisation says

“Low-income countries in Asia and the Pacific have the highest burden of suicide in the world.   These countries are among the poorest globally, and face many social and political challenges.”

This report reminds me that although the westerners may claim to be short of resources, most countries have much less yet  are still morally obliged to provide social support.  It also speaks about cultural change and the application of new strategies. Continue reading “Suicide research and cultural change”

Australian suicide research expands understanding of workplace factors

Research is intended to provide answers but sometimes it can only provide clues. But clues allow progress and flag peripheral issues that could possibly become mainstream.  Social research into the possible workplace influences on suicide is one area of clues and, again, the Creative Ministries Network (CMN) has undertaken solid research into the worst-case scenario of workplace mental health advocates.

Recently CMN released “Suicide and Work“, it’s March 2010 research report. The accompanying media release said:

“Of eleven suicides where the deceased person had at least one prior WorkCover claim prior to their death, the length of time on workers’ compensation was positively correlated with increased probability of suicide. The data is not able to indicate what it is about the length of time on compensation that may be critical to whether an injured worker commits suicide. Continue reading “Australian suicide research expands understanding of workplace factors”

Sticking to the big picture

I had cause to give some students an idea of how well OH&S is doing in Oz.  The aim was to give these people some big picture numbers that might help them counter the general view that OH&S is over-done, crippled with nanny state perspectives etc etc.

Initially I slipped into the mode we tend to use in OH&S-World of fiddling about with comparisons: looking at innumerable qualifiers to get a tight comparison, massaging the numbers endlessly.  Eventually I realised it just didn’t cut it.  Statistics over-worked just end up producing a mushy result. And if there is one thing people don’t need from OH&S it’s mushy results.

So faced with this I decided to step back and think of a Big big Picture bunch of numbers. Continue reading “Sticking to the big picture”

The stress of the wrongly accused

All work is stressful but by educating ourselves and with the support of colleagues and a strong and healthy professional association, it should be possible to function safely.  That is the ideal but reality often seems to fall short.

Recently I was contacted by a person who had heard me speak about workplace bullying and wanted to know what they could do as they have been accused of being a bully.  I contacted the person’s professional association who advised that they have no processes for dealing with those accused of bullying, only victims.  There were few options for the person other than seeking legal advice.

This experience reminded me of how damaging and stressful it can be to be under investigation, regardless of whether the action is justified. Continue reading “The stress of the wrongly accused”

Safety begins to converge to focus on the individual

If further information about the increasing inter-relationships between psychosocial health and physical health, organisational culture and a worker’s mental  health was needed, a new study from Sweden provides convincing evidence.

The research, a study of 81 research projects into the links between psychosocial factors and musculoskeletal disorders, was reported in by Eurofound on 10 September 2010.  It found, among other issues that

“… The link between an unfavourable psychosocial environment and the prevalence of MSDs is well established, with a number of studies demonstrating that high stress at work is connected to increased risk of developing a musculoskeletal disorder. Continue reading “Safety begins to converge to focus on the individual”

Clarity of OHS laws in Australia

On 2 September 2010, an interview I undertook with Radio Atticus was broadcast in Australia  (9 minute mark of the podcast)  Radio Atticus is a law program on public radio in Australia.

As well as my comments, the reporter, Nat Cagilaba, interviewed Neil Foster of the  University of Newcastle (referred to as Ian in the podcast I believe).  We discuss the intended role and the current reality of OHS laws.

Comments on the audio are welcome.

Kevin Jones

Pressure grows for the release of oil drilling investigation

The Australian government has indicated that it will release a report into the Montara oil spill after the general election.  However the Australian election result remains in doubt and, therefore, still no report.

The frustration over this stalling has begun to appear in the very conservative Australian newspaper, The Australian Financial Review (AFR). Once the business and financial community start complaining, a government knows something is serious.

In the AFR editorial on 1 September 2010 (not available online),

“The Borthwick report is likely to make some tough recommendations on safety procedures to prevent another spill. The inquiry heard extraordinary evidence that crucial work programs on the rig were sometimes scrawled on a whiteboard. PTTEP has a promised to review its procedures in the light of the deficiencies raised at the inquiry, but the government should look further afield. It is hard to imagine that PTTEP was a totally isolated case.” Continue reading “Pressure grows for the release of oil drilling investigation”

Australian Noise report. Is anyone listening?

Safe Work Australia has released a very important report called “Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Australia “.

The report confirms many of the challenges faced by OHS professionals. There is, among others,

  • An over-reliance on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  • Noise is not taken seriously
  • Effective noise control is undervalued
  • Small and medium-sized companies pay less attention to the hazard
  • Noise control is seen as expensive
  • As hearing damage cannot be repaired, it is seen as inevitable

The report provides a detailed profile of NIHL and many will find the report an invaluable to gaining more attention to control measures in workplaces but just as mental health is both an occupational AND public health matter, so noise is affecting our private lives just as much as it is in our work lives.

As with many government safety reports, change is likely to come not from the report itself but how the media, the community and the OHS professions use the information to affect change.

Kevin Jones

A bitter internal dispute at the Safety Institute gets a public airing

A member of the Safety Institute of Australia, Sue Bottrell, has taken offence at some of the content in this SafetyAtWorkBlog article.  She has claimed, in a proposed legal action against me, that my blog article, based on an article written by Gavin Waugh and published in Australian Safety Matters Magazine, has defamed her.

Similar legal action is being taken by her against Gavin Waugh, who has indicated that he will be contesting the accusations.

I regret that any element of the SafetyAtWorkBlog article was able to be misinterpreted and caused offence to Sue Bottrell.

Kevin Jones

Death at work differs from work-related death

Often immediately following an incident, the safety manager receives a brief phone call “There’s been an accident.” Information is scarce and, in my experience, often wrong or more fairly inadequate. in OHS there will always be an assumption that an injury or death is work-related as that is our patch but people die every day and they can die anywhere, even in your workplace. Is this a workplace incident? Yes. Is it an occupational incident? not necessarily.

It is vital in those first moments of confusion and panic, not to jump to conclusions and rush out to the incident site. If it is your responsibility you will become involved but often, by asking a few simple questions, you are able to avoid this confusion and avoid worsening the situation by “butting in” where you are not needed.

I was reminded of this when reading about a coronial inquest into two suicides that occurred at an Australian shooting range in October 2008. These two incidents occurred at a workplace but not from work-related activities. There may have been some workplace management issues that, in hindsight, relate to supervision or security but these are the type of issues that the Coroner will investigate.

The deaths are reportable to the OHS regulators as they occurred on a workplace but it is unlikely that the regulator will put a lot of resources into the investigation given the Police and Coroner are investigating.