Workplace suicides should be both notified and investigated

Why does this blog keep writing about workplace suicides? For decades, occupational health and safety (OHS) policy has been determined and measured by traumatic physical fatalities. Psychosocial policies need to be determined and measured by work-related suicides. But to achieve this starting point, the stigma of suicide needs addressing. Recently Professor Sarah Waters and Hilda Palmer conducted an online seminar about workplace suicides and including them as notifiable incidents under the United Kingdom’s Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) laws, Australia needs a similar discussion.

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Small steps in acknowledging workplace psychosocial risks

Australian workplaces need more diversity in their workforce, including workers affected by psychosocial illnesses and conditions. Recently Mental Health Australia released a position statement on employment and mental health.

The statement promoted increased employment opportunities but also touched on the role of occupational health and safety (OHS).

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Resilience training is not dead, but it is coughing up blood

[This article was submitted to The Age (and elsewhere) as a soft counter to so many workplace articles about health and safety that never include content from an occupational health and safety (OHS) specialist. It was never used, even though rewrites were requested.

So it gets used here and in support of this curious month of October where, in Australia, there are two separate monthly themes – Mental Health and Work Health and Safety. That these themes continue to be separate says heaps about the culture in each of these sectors]

Australian jurisdictions are amending their workplace health and safety (WHS) legislation to specify that the unavoidable duties and obligations of employers must now include the psychological health of their workers and not just physical health.  These reasonable and long overdue moves are manifesting in new laws, and new guidances supported by new International Management Standards. The kicker in these changes is that, at least in Victoria, employers will no longer be able to rely solely on awareness training or resilience training to manage workplace mental health.  This position could, and should, challenge traditional mental health trainers and lobbyists to recalibrate their workplace strategies.

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Australia’s mental health industry is in transition

Dr Ian Hickie is a well-respected and knowledgeable advocate of mental health. His CV shows extensive experience in this area since the 1980s. Recently Dr Hickie spoke to the Australian Financial Review about EY’s announcement of a review into its workplace culture following the death by suicide of one of EY’s employees at their offices. The article (paywalled) seems to show a change in traditional approaches to mental health in workplaces, but the change needs to be much more significant and broader.

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Workplace suicide at one of the “Big 4” consulting firms (Open Access)

Warning: this article discusses suicides

Discussions about workplace mental health are everywhere, including this blog, but workplace suicides are less discussed even though there is a direct connection between the two themes. This is due to the continuing stigmatisation of suicide, legal caution, reputational preservation and other factors. It is difficult to write about but necessary to do so.

Recently an EY (formerly Ernst Young) employee died at work after a work function. Some media has reported on this tragic incident, but EY has been under media scrutiny for some time about its workplace culture.

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SafeWorkSA’s approach to psychological harm is as much as it can do but doesn’t have to be

The harm presented by working in Australia’s mining sector has been a concern for a long time. Over the last decade or two, the psychosocial harm from the same work has come to the fore. The occupational health and safety (OHS) responsibility sits clearly with the employers who, in Australia, are often well-resourced national and international corporations. Recently SafeWorkSA issued a media release entitled “Sexual harassment in mining sparks campaign“. SafetyAtWorkBlog took the opportunity to put some questions to the South Australia OHS agency, to which it has responded.

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Multidisciplinary approach to work-related suicides (Open Access)

Recently Denmark hosted the 19th European Symposium on Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour. Workplace suicide was on the agenda, and SafetyAtWorkBlog was able to pose some questions to a leader in suicide research, Professor Sarah Waters. Below is an illustrative extract:

“….If we reduce suicide to a mental health problem that is located in the mind, then there is no need to question the wider social structures and power relationships in which the individual is embedded. Suicide in my view is a political and a societal problem that is shaped by the wider social forces of which the individual forms part….”

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