There is an increased blurring between the workplace, work and mental health. In the past, work and life were often split implying that one had little to do with the other except for a salary in return for effort and wellness in preparation for productiveness. This split was always shaky but was convenient for lots of reasons, one of which was the management of occupational health and safety (OHS). However that perceptual split is over, now that mental health has come to the fore in many OHS considerations.
Recently Huffington Post Australia posted a video about male suicides called “Men are killing themselves to be real men”. Many of the speakers talked about their experiences at work or with work. The video is highly recommended.
SafetyAtWorkBlog had the opportunity to talk with the Associate Video Editor, Emily Verdouw. Below is an edited transcript.
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.
When anyone dies, it is important to remember them and their relatives as well as those we did not know personally but who also grieve. Public recognition of deceased workers is a recent phenomenon, even though we have commemorated and noted industrial disasters for over a century. Memorials have always provided a symbolic focus for our attention and grief with the hope that these memorials motivate people to reduce the chances of a workplace death occurring to others.
But worker memorials need to be carefully considered and designed to be inclusive as Death visits all workplaces regardless of the religion of the workers, their ethnicity, the location of the fatality or the workplace conditions. On the eve of International Workers’ Memorial Day for 2017, it may be time to rethink the memorial to deceased workers in Melbourne, Victoria.
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.