If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

The trade union movement has often been instrumental in affecting and sometimes creating government policy on occupational health and safety (OHS).  The latest generation of hazards – psychosocial – can be traced back to a survey late last century of workplace stress conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).  This week the ACTU released its survey into sexual harassment at work.

The current survey should not be seen as representative of any social group other than trade union members even though the survey was completed by 10,000 of them.  Also, this survey is far less likely to be as newsworthy as last century’s surveys as the agenda on workplace sexual harassment has already been established by reports from groups like Universities Australia and, especially, the current work by the Sexual Discrimination Commissioner and the Australian Human Rights Commission.  It is also likely to be covered, probably as a secondary issue, in the various mental health inquiries scheduled for 2019.

The ACTU survey provides additional information to our understanding of sexual harassment at work but certainly not the whole picture.

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The measuring of culture creates debate

Today, Siobhan McHale, Head of HR at Dulux posted a comment and video on LinkedIn about measuring cultural change.  She introduces her post with:

“Can culture be measured? In my view it can and should be measured – in the same way as any other business activity that’s important to your success.”

The responses have been speedy and this conversation is likely to continue for sometime as McHale is monitoring the comments, some of which dispute McHale’s position.

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A new statistical perspective on work-related injuries and illnesses

In late October 2018, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released a summary of the latest work-related injury and illness data, although it was easy to miss as few, if anyone, reported on it. On first view, that mental health is barely mentioned in the Summary is surprising and the workers compensation data raises interesting policy questions.

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Is OHS suffering from policy AND structural capture?

The Grattan Institute has released a report about the political influence of lobbyists.  Understandably the media is giving the report a lot of attention, particularly as it identifies lobby groups that have more access to politicians than other groups and how public interest policies have failed after intense lobbying. But the report also addresses the matter of “policy capture”.  Although the report analyses the activities of lobbyists, perhaps research could be undertaken into the high level of policy influence on workplace health and safety matters from a tripartite consultative structure that no longer reflects the Australian workforce.

In its Overview the Grattan Institute writes:

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The sexual harassment you walk past is the sexual harassment you accept

Australian Human Rights Commissioner, Kate Jenkins, has released the findings of the Commission’s latest survey on sexual harassment in workplaces.  It is an important analysis of an improving dataset that should make actions to prevent sexual harassment more effective.

The statistical report is separate from the Commission’s National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces and does not emphasise the role of harm prevention but it does contain references to prevention that are worth considering.

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