Psychological regulations and control

Recently International SOS conducted a webinar on workplace psychosocial hazards and controls. Parts of it were clearly marketing and promotional, but some of the speaker’s content was fascinating and useful.

The seminar’s structure was good because it included a global perspective and a local Australian. The speaker from a worldwide standpoint, Dr Rachel Lewis, used financial figures to illustrate the seriousness of workplace mental health risks. These involved annual costs to employers, costs of workplace stress and other figures in the billions. This approach encourages a misunderstanding of the audience for workplace mental health seminars and the occupational health and safety (OHS) approach to the hazard.

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It’s not the size of the data, it’s what you do with it

Companies and clients continue to require numerical reports on the safety and health performance of their workers and suppliers. These measures mean very little to the improvement of the safety and health of workers but they continue to be required. Much of this is safety clutter but at a recent occupational health and safety (OHS) conference Professor Sharron O’Neill offered some hope.

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Not all suicides have a mental health condition

Most suicide prevention conferences I have attended have been dominated by mental health analyses, strategies and spruikers. The slow change in that dominance began around Professor Allison Milner’s research in 2018 and her questioning of the evidence of a mental health base but stalled with her untimely death a year later. A recent research paper in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine may be the spark to reignite the discussion on suicides that do not have a mental health connection.

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Political point-scoring misses the point

Last week the Australian Financial Review (AFR) caused a bit of a political stink by reporting that:

“….Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the share of casual employment was 22.8 per cent in February – 1.3 percentage points lower than in February 2020, just before the pandemic hit the economy.
The casualisation rate is 4.8 percentage points below the peak of 27.6 per cent in 2003.”

AFR, April 12 2022 – Albanese’s casual jobs claim is ‘wrong’, according to ABS data

The figures seem accurate but do not tell the whole story. How are employment statistics relevant to occupational health and safety (OHS)? Job insecurity is a significant factor in work-related mental health.

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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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Good solid OHS profile on which to base a change strategy

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) recently released its latest State of Work Health and Safety in Australia 2021 report called “Work Shouldn’t Hurt“. ACTU’s Liam O’Brien said

“The ACTU’s 2021 Work Shouldn’t Hurt Survey revealed that 80% of workers who are injured or made ill at work do not even make a workers’ compensation claim, in the case of insecure workers this jumps to 95%. This highlights that the 120,000 workers who made a claim last year is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to measuring health and safety at work”

This is no surprise to those concerned with occupational health and safety (OHS). Sadly, the ACTU report was thin on possible solutions.

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WorkSafe Victoria’s new Mental Health Strategy is good but constrained

WorkSafe Victoria has launched a “Mental Health Strategy” aimed at preventing mental health at work. It is a good strategy that is hampered by its jurisdictional constraints. There is plenty of evidence on the causes of mental ill-health at work and what is required to prevent this hazard. Many of these controls exist outside the workplace, beyond the realm of any one government organisation, so it is disappointing that the Victorian Government did not release a Statewide mental health plan, especially as it has a Minister for Mental Health in James Merlino.

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