Look closely at the camel rather than the straw

There are strong parallels between the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces and others addressing workplace issues, such as the Victorian Royal Commission into Mental and the Productivity Commission’s mental health inquiry, but there is also a connection to the Royal Commission into Banking and Financial Services which has focused the minds of some of Australia’s corporation s and leaders into examining their own workplace cultures and, for some, to reassess the role and application of capitalism.

This is going to become even more of a critical activity as the National Sexual Harassment Inquiry completes its report prior to its release in the first month or two of 2020.

Cultural analysis, and change, is often best undertaken first in a microcosm or specific social context. The experiences of sexual harassment of rural women in Australia is one such context, a context examined in detail by Dr Skye Saunders in her book “Whispers from the Bush“.

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Does “Meaningful Work” mean anything useful?

In September 2019 an Australian recruiting firm, Beaumont People, has commissioned a research project to identify what constitutes meaningful work. The company places meaningful work in the context of at least one of the United Nations’ Sustainability Goals (SDGs) – Decent Work and Economic Growth, but it is difficult to understand what is meant by “meaningful work”. Couldn’t the survey have used the UN Decent Work criteria?

The Beaumont People website says this of Meaningful Work:

“Meaningful Work is the importance an individual places on their work meeting their current personal beliefs, values, goals, expectations, and purpose in the context of their social and cultural environment.

Despite the vast amount of research undertaken on the concept and measurement of meaningful work, there remains no consistent definition of meaningful work nor consensus on the scales designed to measure it.”

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Truths? Maybe. But Hard? Nah.

Professions often learn more from those in other professions that they do from their own. As such SafetyAtWorkBlog looks in lots of places for insights that may help the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession.

Recently the Australian Human Resource Institute published a discussion paper called “5 Hard Truths about Workplace Culture”. OHS operates in the same workplace culture so there may be lessons for all.

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CEDA provides business insights but more is needed

One of the missed opportunities for improving occupational health and safety (OHS) over the last 30 years has been the application of corporate social responsibilities (CSR) to the supply chain and not to one’s own health and safety performance. CSR and OHS and social justice and decent work are all elements of the Venn Diagram of keeping people safe.

But this diagram exists in a world where economics dominates political decision-making and conflict results. Recently in Australia corporate leaders have spoken about various controversial social issues. Last week the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ben Morton advised companies to stop this advocacy and focus on the economic fundamentals of business. This week the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) released its Company Pulse survey results which shows that the community accepts that company executives can advocate for social issues.

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Interesting but not representative

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) released the results of its latest occupational health and safety (OHS) survey. In past surveys respondents have been trade union members. This survey was opened to non-union members, but to what extent is unclear but this has not stopped the ACTU speaking of the respondents as workers rather than workers who are all union members.

This differentiation is important. In the 1990s when union membership was much larger, the argument that the survey results were representative of Australia’s workforce was stronger although still debatable. Representation is harder to claim now with union membership being well below 20% overall and below 10% in the private sector.

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