The reader’s comments on online articles can be very revealing. Below is a discussion of some of the comments posted on The Australian website in response to an article about the accuracy of workplace fatality data in the mining industry. Given that this is one of the few mainstream media articles about occupational health and safety (OHS), they are telling.
One commenter asked the newspaper:
“… if one of your accountants based in the Sydney office were to have a car accident in Parramatta while driving to work in the morning, would you include that in your OHS statistics as a workplace fatality?”
This Forbes article on the France Telecom suicides, written by Jack Kelly, is doing the rounds on LinkedIn with various lessons identified by various commentators. Sadly Kelly dilutes the significance of the suicides and the jailing of executives by implying that the action in France is a special case, as if the executives were trapped by employment laws into taking the actions that led to the extreme anxiety felt by France Telecom’s workers.
Kelly’s concluding paragraph is unnecessarily equivocal:
“The trial shows that managers waging a campaign of harassment against employees could establish a precedent in France and other countries. It may serve as a strong warning to corporate executives and management that their actions have severe consequences. Pushing employees too hard may result in serious consequences for both the workers and the purveyors of the punishing behaviors.”
Kelly use of “may” weakens the significance of the executive’ actions, the successful prosecution and the jail sentences. Why write that this may happen when the article is about a real case of cause and effect between executive strategy and suicide? Surely “may” should have been “can”.
The France Telecom suicide saga has reached a conclusion with a French Court sending several of company’s former executives to jail as a result of “collective moral harassment”. This will have very little impact on the management of occupational health and safety (OHS) in Australia because of the timing and inadequate translation and context.
“Moral Harassment” is a term that is absent from the Australian OHS lexicon. One equivalent term is “mobbing” but this is also an uncommon term in Australia. Australia’s equivalent is “workplace bullying” as mentioned in research by Katherine Lippel of the University of Ottawa in 2011 (pages 1-2).
Agriculture is one of the most dangerous workplaces in Australia and other countries. This reality is supported by many statistics and over a long time.
Agriculture is, perhaps, at the forefront of changing production methods to ensure sustainability in a world that is changing in ways that no farmers have had to face in the past. Agriculture therefore needs to be both a safe and a sustainable industry.
So why is workplace health and safety not being given a top priority in the Victorian Government’s Smart Farms program?
There is a confluence of investigations into mental health and suicides in Australia at the moment, and most of them overlap with occupational health and safety (OHS). Each of these increases the understanding of the relationship between work and mental health but no one seems to be connecting the threads into a cohesive case. This article doesn’t either, by itself, but hopefully the threads of the issues are identified through the themes of various SafetyAtWorkBlog articles.
Recently Tim Quilty of the Liberal Democratic Party addressed the issue of suicide in relation to his contribution to the debate on Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws in the Victorian Parliament. His assertions seem a little naïve: