Different OHS messages to different audiences

Last week, WorkSafe Victoria held its annual Business Leaders’ Breakfast. The keynote speaker was Karen Maher, who spoke about the need for an effective and respectful workplace culture that would foster a healthy psychosocial environment. Her presentation would have been familiar to many of the occupational health and safety (OHS) and WorkSafe personnel in the audience, but it may have been revolutionary for any business leaders. Maher outlined the need for change but not necessarily how to change or the barriers to change.

The event did provide a useful Q&A session and afforded the new WorkSafe Victoria CEO, Joe Calafiore, his second public speaking event in a week.

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New data on workplace suicides should change the mental health at work discussion

“No one should die at work” is a common statement at Worker Memorial Services every year. Occupational health and safety (OHS), in particular, uses death as a starting point for reflection and sometimes action. Workplace death is a recognised worst-case scenario and has long been established as a benchmark for measuring OHS progress.

[This article discusses workplace suicides]

There is increased interest in psychosocial hazards at work with the worthy goal of preventing these hazards. However, psychosocial deaths such as those by suicide do not hold the same place or role as “traditional” physical workplace deaths. They are rarely the launching pad for drastic change in our systems of business, but that is starting to change if new data and analysis are any indication.

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WHO says burnout is occupational, but at least one psychologist says WHO is wrong

The cover story of the February 2024 edition of Psychology Today is less a story than a collection of short pieces on mental health and burnout. This blog may seem unfairly critical of much of the psychological discussion on burnout but this is largely because the World Health Organisation (WHO) has defined burnout as an occupational phenomenon and “is not classified as a medical condition”. The popular literature on mental health and its workplace context almost entirely overlooks these two elements – a literature that is often the first destination for people trying to understand their workplace distress. Sometimes, popular literature is unhelpful.

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World Day of Health and Safety – Climate Change

The need for occupational health and safety (OHS) to adapt to the changing (deteriorating) global climate has long been discussed. This discussion may spike later this month with this year’s World Day of Health and Safety theme, the somewhat fatalistic “Ensuring safety and health at work in a changing climate“. Rather than look closely at the ILO global report on this issue, clearer discussion may be found in the latest edition of HesaMag with its special report on “Workers and the climate challenge” from the European Trade Union Institute.

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The occupational context of burnout is largely missed in this new book about exhaustion

Burnout continues to have its moment in the sun. It is the cover story of the February 2024 edition of Psychology Today and is a major theme in a new book about exhaustion. The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) declaration of burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” is downplayed or ignored in both publications.

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The future of OHS and Safe Work Australia

Marie Boland‘s work and reviews have been prominent features in Australia’s occupational health and safety (OHS) for over a decade. Last year, she took on the CEO role at Safe Work Australia, the country’s principal workplace health and safety policy body. Recently Boland spoke to the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS).

The interview/article starts with the unavoidable moral argument for the importance of workers’ lives in Australia and the social ripple effect of deaths and serious injuries. Inevitably, economic cost is mentioned:

“Our research shows that, in the absence of work-related injuries and illnesses, Australia’s economy would be $28.6 billion larger each year, and Australians would be able to access more jobs with better pay,”

page 27, OHS Professional, March 2024

Economics is always mentioned in articles about the importance of workplace health and safety but, really, who cares?

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“10 to 15% of suicides in the working population are attributable to work”

Job strain, job stress, and psychosocial hazards at work have become mainstream if a major public broadcaster produces radio programs and podcasts about them.

On March 15, 2024, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s This Working Life program interviewed Australian experts on job strain. The program offered the latest thinking on the prevalence of this hazard and what to do to prevent it.

Note: This article mentions work-related suicide.

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