Good, but very limited, advice on workplace mental health

Member magazines, those magazines included in a professional’s membership, are an important source of information. Members of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria, for instance, receive the RoyalAuto magazine which is really the primary source of information on changes to road rules. Most occupational health and safety (OHS) associations have internal magazines for a similarly targeted audience. Australian accountants have the In The Black magazine.

Recently In The Black published an article about mental health at work titled “Get smart with mental health”. No background to the author, Helen Hawkes, was provided and no references were included for the data used to support statements about the importance of the mental health. Context and sources are important to all articles but arguably moreso for member magazines and, especially, for professionals like accountants who can have a major impact on how OHS is managed.

Much of the information in the article would be familiar to OHS professionals – Return on Investment, the cost of Presenteeism as a percentage of payroll…. What is almost entirely missing is advice on how to prevent mental ill-health from occurring in the first place, and there is no mention of any of the OHS guidance in this area published by Safe Work Australia.

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The mental health “one in five” statistic examined for validity

This blog has a policy of linking to source documents wherever possible. Recently I investigated the origin of the statement, and its variations:

“In a 12 month period, 20 per cent of Australians will experience a mental health condition.”

Clarity on this is going to be important as Australia has several formal inquiries relating to mental health and this statement often crops up in strategy documents and policies related to occupational health and safety (OHS).

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Expenditure data needs more depth

An August 2018 report from Ontario’s Institute for Work and Health (IWH) opens stating:

“Whilst the financial cost of work-related injury and illness are well known, limited information is available on what employers spend to control or eliminate the causes of work-related injury and illness.”

This is questionable. The cost of traumatic injuries may be well-known and the cost to business may be well-known but only if one exempts the cost of work-related psychological health, as this survey seems to do, and only if one considers the related business costs as almost entirely workers’ compensation. There is a

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Men’s Health podcast

Free Access

Day 1 of the Australian Labor Party conference was fascinating but unsatisfying in terms of debate on occupational health and safety matters so I spoke with one of the many exhibitors at the conference.

Glen Poole is the CEO of the Australian Men’s Health Forum and the podcast below includes a brief discussion of the importance of men’s health and the relevance of the workplace in generating and managing workplace mental health.

Kevin Jones

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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