Suicide prevention needs more than business as usual

That suicide is related to workplace mental health pressures and illnesses is undisputed, but the more independent analysis on the topic, the more complex the causes become. Sometimes, suicide can be a conscious decision, still due to socioeconomic factors but factors that are not necessarily diagnosed or treated with mental health conditions.

[This article discusses suicide risks]

This reality complicates, and should complicate, strategies for the prevention of suicide. Recently, Australia’s National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) submitted its pre-budget wishlist to the government. This submission included action on suicide and mental health but in traditional ways.

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Right-To-Disconnect changes need a strategy for acceptance

On February 11, 2024, the Insiders program had a curious discussion on the Right-To-Disconnect. Different generational perspectives, industry perspectives, and a curious denial were present.

Last week, the Australian Parliament passed workplace relations legislation that included a Right-To-Disconnect.

Insiders’ host, David Speers, asked Jacob Greber of the Australian Financial Review to explain the probable workplace changes (it was a poor summary):

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The “Right to Disconnect” should have been “Obligation-To-Leave-Workers-Alone”

The Australian Greens announced on February 7, 2024, that the Right-To-Disconnect (RTD) bill would pass Parliament as part of workplace relations reforms. On February 8, 2024, the mainstream media wrote as if the laws had already been passed. However, several issues with these laws indicate they are unlikely to be applied in practice as widely as advocates claim and in the way anticipated.

The closer the RTD laws come to reality, the more useless they appear.

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The sleeper IR issue of the Right-to-Disconnect wakes up

This week, the Australian Parliament debates further workplace relations legislative system changes. These will have occupational health and safety (OHS) impacts, usually indirectly; however, one clear OHS element in the proposed legislation is the Right-to-Disconnect.

This change has been a long time coming and has clear and proven mental health and social benefits for workers, but you won’t hear much of the OHS justification in the media. Most of the business opposition has been alarmist noise claiming the world will end. According to the Australian Financial Review (AFR) editorial on February 1 2024. Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke:

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A refresh of the Code of Practice for Working Hours could be of great benefit

Many workers have a working week that includes more hours than they were contracted for. This is often described as “unpaid overtime”, which is a misnomer as “overtime” traditionally involves being paid a higher rate of income to compensate for making one available beyond or “over” regular business hours. Unpaid overtime can also be considered employer- and employee-endorsed exploitation and lead to industrial disputes, as junior doctors recently showed in Victoria.

Since 2006, the West Australian government has had a Code of Practice for Working Hours, with supporting documents such as risk management guidelines. This level of prescription could be applicable in supporting and clarifying newly-emphasised occupational health and safety (OHS) duties for psychosocially healthy work.

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Are wellbeing programs “safe washing” their OHS performance?

First, there was brainwashing, then greenwashing and safewashing. Could the well-being industry be accused of safewashing? Has well-being had its day in the sun?

The first use of safewash to describe presenting occupational health and safety (OHS) information in a diffused truth was in the 2016 research paper by Sharron O’Neill, Jack Flanagan and Kevin Clarke, called “Safewash! Risk attenuation and the (Mis)reporting of corporate safety performance to investors” (abstract/summary available). It has turned up elsewhere since.

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New Sexual Harassment Code is part of the workplace mental health transition

This month Safe Work Australia (SWA) released its Code of Practice – Sexual and gender-based harassment, which applies to almost all Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) jurisdictions. It is an important document for many reasons, not the least is to reduce, and hopefully to prevent, the potential for life-altering psychological harm. It is also important in the expansion of management areas traditionally managed through personnel departments to include OHS concepts and control measures.

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