IR to HR to OHS to WHS to Mental Health in one lunchbreak

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Every so often, legal seminars on industrial relations and occupational health and safety identify possible solutions instead of spruiking a lawyer’s latest publication or showing off legal expertise and OHS ignorance.  In a lunchtime seminar in July 2013, Melbourne law firm Maddocks provided 30 minutes of clarity on flexible working arrangements and another 30 on workplace bullying providing a useful and refreshing bridge between human resources, industrial relations and OHS.

Flexible Work Arrangements

The Fair Work Act seems to be constantly changing and one of the most recent changes is a revision of flexible working arrangements.  These arrangements have always been on the fringe of OHS but integral to HR where returning to work from extended leave needs phasing in, or where one’s familial situation has changed so that 9 to 5 is no longer manageable.  OHS is not overt in these negotiations Continue reading “IR to HR to OHS to WHS to Mental Health in one lunchbreak”

Very useful workplace mental health guidelines released

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The Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recovery Research (ISCRR) has released a set of guidelines for the prevention of mental health problems at work. Such guidelines have been sorely required in Australia where workplace mental health problems have become an increasing problem for workers and organisations and workplace bullying dominates the policy landscape. It recommends the development of a mental health and wellbeing strategy that includes the following elements:

  • “the development of a positive work environment that supports and encourages mental health
  • balancing job demands with job control
  • appropriately rewarding employees efforts
  • creating a fair workplace
  • provision of workplace supports
  • effective management of performance issues
  • provision of training to develop management and leadership skills
  • supportive change management processes Continue reading “Very useful workplace mental health guidelines released”

Federal Safety Commissioner begins review of SWMS info

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Recently, the issue of Safe Work Method Statements was discussed at a construction safety conference in Canberra.  SafetyAtWorkBlog reported that:

“Several delegates stated their belief that the Office of the Federal Safety Commissioner (OFSC) is largely to blame for the over-emphasis on SWMS in the construction sector and for the bloating of SWMS into a document that does little to improve safety and is more related to meeting the audit criteria of the OFSC”

Last week, the Office of the Federal Safety Commission (OFSC) removed the webpage that led to its Fact Sheet – Guidance for producing Safe Work Method Statements.  The webpage now says that

“The Guidance for producing Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) Fact Sheet is currently under review.”

What’s going on? Continue reading “Federal Safety Commissioner begins review of SWMS info”

Draft bullying code and cultural measurement

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cover of 2013 DRAFT-COP-Preventing-Responding-Workplace-BullyingSafe Work Australia has released its latest draft code of practice for preventing and responding to workplace bullying for public comment.  There are many useful and practical strategies in the draft code but workplace bullying is only a small element of the more sustainable strategy of developing a safe and respectful organisational culture.

The definition in the May 2013 draft code is a tidied up version of the September 2011 definition:

“…repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of  workers that creates a risk to health and safety.”

The lack of difference in these definitions is a real positive given the complaints, primarily, from the business community since 2011.  The significance in both definitions is that there must be a direct relationship between the behaviours and health and safety risks.  This could be substantially difficult to prove, particularly if , as in  most cases, it is the recipient of the bullying who needs to prove this.

Harm Prevention

Consider, for a moment, that this code of practice is used for establishing preventative measures and not just used for disproving a court case, these definitions can help establish a benchmark for creating a safe organisational culture. Continue reading “Draft bullying code and cultural measurement”

Safe Work Australia vs Quad Bike Manufacturers

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The chair of Safe Work Australia, Rex Hoy, makes an extraordinary challenge to the manufacturers of quad bikes.  In a media statement released on 26 April 2013, he

“…has called on the designers and manufacturers of quad bikes to urgently reconsider improving the design of quad bikes so they are not prone to roll over.”

Quad bike Say Safety_v151_04_10This sounds a sensible and safe suggestion but independent Australian research is still to be completed on whether these work vehicles are prone to roll over as a result of their design, and not simply driver (mis)behaviour.

Hoy notes that people continue to die whilst riding quad bikes and is quoted saying:

“We cannot sit by and watch people being killed and seriously injured by these vehicles. Everyone has a responsibility for quad bike safety but it must involve a safer product. We need to ask ourselves how much a life is worth opposed to the cost of a crush protection device.”

Quad bike designers and manufacturers have been emphatic in their position that rollovers are, primarily, the fault of driver behaviour and that crush protection devices are likely to contribute to rollovers or exacerbate worker injuries from rollovers. Continue reading “Safe Work Australia vs Quad Bike Manufacturers”