Old working hours concepts persist as subtext in new debates

One of the most contentious occupational health and safety (OHS) elements of industrial relations negotiations is the issue of working hours. And one of the most effective ways to prevent physical and psychological harm is by talking about working hours. The evidence for harm from excessive and often unpaid hours is clear, but some assumptions crop up in the debate every so often.

Two recent books, one by David Graeber & David Wengrow and another by Daniel Susskind, offer reminders of these issues and are useful adjuncts to the Australian research on precarious work by Michael Quinlan, Phillip Bohle and others. ( A Guardian review of Graeber & Wengrow is available here with one from The Atlantic here, Susskind here and here)

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Disconnect and Positive Duties

Recently the Australian government released the interim report of the Select Committee on Work and Care. This committee is one to watch for many reasons; the least is that it is chaired by Senator Barabara Pocock, a leading researcher and writer on issues related to work/life balance and workplace equity. The report does not address occupational health and safety (OHS) risks directly;y but discusses many of the flexible work structures that can affect workers’ mental health.

One element of the Committee’s report deals with the Right to Disconnect – the right to turn off from the always-on workplace; a policy that returns the focus of days off to relaxation, hobbies or reconnection with friends and family.

Another is the imposition of another work-related positive duty.

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Guilt, shame, dissatisfaction: workers and customers on the gig economy (and how to make it better)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


The gig economy is in trouble. Rideshare drivers are cancelling in droves. Wait times for food delivery are ballooning out and driver shortages are leading to food waste.

So, what’s going on? To find out more, I interviewed 30 Melbourne gig workers who worked as rideshare drivers, food deliverers or for task-based platforms such as Airtasker.

I also spoke to 30 customers who use such services, and to 20 industry stakeholders. My colleague, Elizabeth Straughan from the University of Melbourne, conducted a further ten interviews with gig workers after the pandemic set in, to learn how they’d been affected.

Continue reading “Guilt, shame, dissatisfaction: workers and customers on the gig economy (and how to make it better)”

Research shows the danger of overconnection

Many companies are starting to settle into hybrid working arrangements where workers are in the office for part of their time and at home for others. The occupational health and safety (OHS) impacts are still being discovered and refined. The flexibility of these hybrid arrangements is both good and bad, as identified recently by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) in its analysis of the Right-To-Disconnect.

This could/should become a significant consideration when complying with Australia’s OHS regulations for psychologically safe workplaces currently under development.

Eurofound’s Executive Summary states:

“Digital technologies have made it possible for many workers to carry out their work at any time and anywhere, with consequent advantages and disadvantages. Potential advantages include greater autonomy, better work–life balance, improved productivity and environmental benefits. However, the constant connection enabled by information and communications technology (ICT)-based mobile devices can pose risks to health and well-being, as well as causing work–life balance conflict linked to longer working hours and the blurring of boundaries between work and private life.”

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Anonymous reporting in Victoria’s legal sector

Industry groups and employers should accept the reality of their occupational health and safety (OHS) duties, especially concerning sexual harassment. Recently the Victorian Legal Services Board (VLSB) launched an online complaints service for lawyers. According to the September 16, 2021, media release, the service:

“…enables both targets and witnesses of sexual harassment to report what happened, where, when and to whom. Reporters can provide as much or as little detail as they feel comfortable”

The attraction of this service is that one would expect such a service from a legal services board to be spot on with its legal and privacy, and human rights obligations. But then, that comes from a non-lawyer.

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NZ research into transport industry OHS is relevant everywhere

In 2019, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews flagged that incidents involving commercial vehicles would be reflected in workplace health and safety statistics. There has been little visible change on this pledge. Still, recently WorkSafe Victoria reviewed its work-related fatality statistics to include truck fatalities and other causes of work-related deaths for the last couple of years. Guess what, the number of deaths almost doubled for that period from 26 to 49!! What would the rate of serious injuries be if it was also reassessed?

New Zealand undertook a similar exercise a few years ago, which has led to a significant research project into that country’s transport industry and supply chains, a research project with substantial relevance to Australia and elsewhere.

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Disconnecting is not easy but it is necessary

One of the best ways to maintain one’s own work-related mental health is to adhere to working hours and keep work communication to the hours you are contracted for. This is not rejecting the workload but is establishing boundaries that will offer a more sustainable job, career and mental health.

However, disconnecting is not as easy as that, and there are potential job or career impacts. These were recently discussed in an article in The Guardian written by Elle Hunt.

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