Recently the Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, addressed the National Press Club in Canberra. The AIGroup is one of the “go to” business groups, along with the Business Council of Australia and mining industry groups, that the business media knows will comment on anything when asked, and frequently when not asked. Willox’s August presentation was on Industrial Relations, but it also illustrates the workplace and political culture in which occupational health and safety (OHS) must operate.
When Australia harmonised its occupational health and safety (OHS) laws, the management focus broadened to include work, and not just workplaces. Some “knowledge” or white-collar work can be done anywhere, and employers have often struggled to understand how to extend their OHS management systems and duties to apply to this revised or expanded system of work. Current OHS guidance on working from home is too “big picture” when employers are addressing localised decisions.
Occupational health and safety (OHS) needs new thinking. One of the most important elements of successful OHS comes from Consultation – a sensible process and one required by law. A major process for OHS consultation in those laws is through the Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs). This legislative (recommended) option was practical but is now almost an anachronism, yet the OHS regulators continue to support the process because it is in the OHS laws. And few will speak against the process because it is being maintained by the trade union movement as one of the last legacies of political influence over workplace health and safety.
This month Queensland government released its report into the review of its Work Health and Safety laws with these two of the three categories of recommendations:
- “elevation of the role of health and safety representative (HSR) at the workplace
- clarification of the rights of HSRs and worker representatives to permit them to effectively perform the role and functions conferred upon them and to remove unnecessary disputation,….”
The absurdity of HSRs’ persistence can be illustrated by the rumour that WorkSafe Victoria will encourage sex workers to follow the HSR consultative process through the OHS guidance expected to be released later this year.
Recently this blog wrote about an article on the news website of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation concerning burnout. One of the people interviewed for the article was Sally McGrath, who responded to a series of questions put to her to clarify some of the workplace mental health issues raised.
SAWB: Did your three burnout experiences happen at the same workplace?
Continue reading “The personal and cultural factors in work addiction”
SM: Yes – this was a result of me taking on too much, and being “capable” is something that I believe can work both for and against a person. In my case (and many I see) always saying yes and being delegated work is where the burnout begins, you don’t want to be seen as not coping or capable. You also want to be seen as the “next in line for promotion” and saying no can work against you.
The Australian Financial Review published an article on April 14 2023 (paywalled) about workplace health and safety risks faced by retail workers. The entry point was the stabbing death of twenty-year-old bottle shop worker Declan Laverty in Darwin. That a business newspaper includes an extensive article on workplace safety is a positive, but it tries to be too inclusive and overlooks hazard control measures.
Several weeks ago, Scott’s Refrigerated Logistics, a prominent Australia trucking company, entered receivership. It seems the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU), as part of a long campaign, chose to take another potshot at one of Australia’s few supermarkets, Aldi, accusing it of “pressuring supply chains” when the average profit margin in this sector has been described as an average profit margin of only 2.5 per cent. Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) in Australia’s transport industry has always been an important issue and is regularly a political football.
The union’s claims are being echoed by Senator Tony Sheldon, a former national secretary of the TWU, in Parliament.
Recently at the Central Safety Group, I offered two business options to prevent and manage the risks of mental injury at work – Employ more people or Descope company expectations. This was glib, but I was trying to simplify the decisions that employers will face if they choose to meet their occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations. The reality of the decision-making process is challenging, but it seems to me that the core decisions are to increase the workforce to adequately and safely meet the needs of the company or project, or reduce the production volume or decrease the expectations of the client, and the related stress levels of the workers, to match the size of the workforce.
The actual decision is more complex, but this choice is fundamental to the prevention of harm and compliance with the OHS laws.