Workplace mindfulness? The jury is still out

At a well-attended La Trobe University alumni seminar in May 2017, researchers discussed the reality and the hype surrounding mindfulness. They explained the varieties of mindfulness, the clinic research history over the last four decades and the personal advantages of living mindfully. However in the workplace and organisational context, they said that there was insufficient evidence to show benefits from workplace mindfulness in this “emerging area of research”.

The seminar was hosted by Latrobe University with three speakers

Many mindfulness advocates have developed programs that they claim can offer substantial benefits to workplaces by increasing productivity and reducing injury and illness, primarily, by change the behaviours and attitudes of employees.  This individual approach is often collated into a workplace and promoted as an organisational opportunity.  But the La Trobe researchers mentioned that this is a very recent perspective.

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Trade unions offer alternative, more accurate(?) workplace death statistics

The Victorian Trades Hall Council (VTHC) indirectly acknowledged the ILO theme for World Day for Safety and Health at Work in its media release for International Workers Memorial Day 2017.  The ILO was calling for more, and better, data on workplace injuries and illnesses.  VTHC questioned the official workplace fatality numbers issued by the government.  It stated:

“A VTHC analysis shows that in 2016-17 over 200 Victorians died as a direct result of Workplace injury or illness, although the government’s official tally for the year is just 26.”

This disparity needs to be discussed across jurisdictions because occupational health and safety (OHS) data has always been incomplete, a fact acknowledged by many government inquiries in Australia for many years.  

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OHS changes to come in wake of the Western Australia election result

It is rare to find an occupational health and safety (OHS) seminar that is captivating but there is almost always some useful bits of safety information, hopefully enough to make attendance worthwhile.

On March 24, 2017 the Safety Institute of Australia and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) held the annual breakfast seminar in Melbourne.  Speakers included representatives from the HSF law firm, the SIA, WorkSafe Victoria and SafeSearch.  Perhaps of most interest was HSF’s senior associate from Perth, Sam Witton (pictured), who outlined the OHS changes likely in Western Australia now the Australian Labor Party (ALP) is in power.

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When Work Kills – new research on workplace suicides

There are many advocates of the importance of a mental health and wellbeing in workplaces.  But few of them address the worst-case scenario for workplace mental health of work-related suicides.  In some cases, the mental health advocates are overly cautious about even speaking the reality, which does not help reduce mental health stigma.

In 2016 Professor Stewart Clegg, of UTS Business School said that

“That work can kill the will to live is a fundamental ethical problem that we must attend to…”

New research from the UK provides a useful summary of the work-related and workplace suicides in Europe with important lessons of where precarious employment and the “gig economy” could lead.

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OHS and Maryam Omari

Maryam Omari is an Associate Professor at Edith Cowan University and Dean of its School of Business and Law. She has worked in the Middle East, UK and USA and SafetyAtWorkBlog had a chance to ask her some workplace safety questions. Professor Omari has published several books with her latest being “Workplace Abuse, Incivility and Bullying: Methodological…

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Gender, violence, Batty, Hulls and business preparedness

Recently the Victorian Women Lawyers conducted a seminar into the outcomes of Victoria’s Royal Commission into Family Violence.  SafetyAtWorkBlog attended even though the topic seems, initially, to have a tenuous link to occupational health and safety (OHS).  Family violence is relevant to OHS through its influence on workplace mental ill-health, productivity and the need for cultural…

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Japanese depression contrasts the Western understanding of workplace mental health

frustrated young asian businessman

Australian workplace mental health advocates often seem to shy away from discussions of suicide, perhaps because suicides are not a regular occurrence at work or because work-related suicide remains stigmatised.  To better understand this overlap between suicide and mental health, and the working environment, it may be useful to look at the Japanese experience where work-related suicides, specifically karoshi, seems to have occurred before the appearance or recognition of mental ill-health and depression.

Recently the BBC released a series of broadcasts and podcasts looking at mental health issues.  The first episode discussed “Depression in Japan”.  The whole series Borders of Sanity will be of interest to mental health students and professionals but the Japanese episode reinforces that the recognition and treatment of depression is not the same around the world.  The appearance of depression in Japan is a very recent occurrence and shows the links between mental health and culture, particularly as it relates to the role of work, our place in work and our relationships with our bosses.

Japan has a unique approach to work and the relationships within work.  Some of the practices have been exported to other countries as we have seen in companies like Toyota but the perception of workload, diligence, commitment and loyalty has some echoes in Western workplaces.

Karoshi has been reported on in the West many times before, often as a peculiar quirk of the Orient but the recent BBC podcast is less about suicide and more about depression and mental health.  The West has a long tradition of psychoanalysis where stress, anxiety and depression have been defined, refined and integrated into our cultures.  This is still in its early stages in Japan and the full podcast is a fascinating counterpoint to the Western perception of workplace mental health.

Kevin Jones

“Cabbage Salad and Safety” podcast launched

KJ SFH HeadshotIt has been my intention for many years to establish a conversational podcast with a workplace safety lawyer. The opportunity to pitch the idea occurred earlier this year and the first episode of Cabbage Salad and Safety is now available.

Siobhan Flores-Walsh of Corrs Chambers Westgarth (pictured right with the author) was the lucky lawyer and she has been enormously supportive also providing the recording equipment, personnel and opportunity. Continue reading ““Cabbage Salad and Safety” podcast launched”

Could safety by algorithms be next?

It seems to be increasingly important for occupational health and safety (OHS) to focus on the human and the humanity of the worker but this seems out of touch with the world of Human Resources (HR) and recruitment that is increasingly being dominated by impersonal algorithms.  Recently BBC’s Global Business program looked at Recruitment By Algorithm.

According to Global Business, recruitment assesses the “fit” of a job applicant through assessments undertaken by computer programs and algorithms.  This is occurring at the same time as OHS professionals are increasingly advocating the importance of a “safety culture” even though safety culture is difficult to define, and some deny it exists.  There seems to be an inherent conflict in the process of recruiting safe workers. Continue reading “Could safety by algorithms be next?”

Suicide Prevention Forum and Mental Health First Aid for workers

In March 2016, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released its latest figures into the causes of death. A lot of media attention was given to the figures showing an increase in the suicide rate.  It found that

“Among those aged 15 to 44, the leading causes of death were Intentional self-harm (suicide)…”

Dr Claire Kelly, Manager, Youth Programs, Mental Health First Aid Australia, talking at the Suicide Prevention Forum 2016
Dr Claire Kelly, Manager, Youth Programs, Mental Health First Aid Australia, talking at the Suicide Prevention Forum 2016

On the day those figures were released, the

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