Federal Safety Commission embraces mental health

The Office of the Federal Safety Commission is a weird beast.  It originated from Royal Commission in the Building and Construction Industry which many at the time and since saw as a politically motivated exercise.  But whereas the Australian Building and Construction Commission which also originated in the Royal Commission, is mired in political and media back and forth, the OFSC has remained relatively clean.  This may illustrate the difficulty of arguing against workplace health and safety even when the Commission has a fair bit of safety clutter.

Recently the OFSC joined the workplace mental health movement, a legitimate occupational health and safety element.  It will offer little that is new, but the results of its November 2021 member survey do provide a useful insight into the major construction projects and contractors.

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New Hopkins book aimed at CEOs

Professor Andrew Hopkins‘ latest book “Sacrificing Safety – Lessons for Chief Executives” complements Queensland’s Board of Inquiry into the Grosvenor mine fire in which five workers were severely burnt, a significant workplace incident for which the company, Anglo American, will not be prosecuted. Hopkins explains that the Board of Inquiry chose not to investigate the organisational causes of the incident; a situation this book seeks to redress.

The book starts with a bang in the Introduction, with a paragraph that will stay with me for some time due to its blunt honesty:

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Congratulations

Congratulations to the eight subscribers who have won a copy each of David Provan’s wonderful book “A Field Guide to Safety Professional Practice”.

The books will be mailed out shortly to

  • Kirilee,
  • Trish
  • Russel
  • Nan
  • Grant
  • Sharon
  • Gillian, and
  • Jason

Kevin Jones

Not all suicides have a mental health condition

Most suicide prevention conferences I have attended have been dominated by mental health analyses, strategies and spruikers. The slow change in that dominance began around Professor Allison Milner’s research in 2018 and her questioning of the evidence of a mental health base but stalled with her untimely death a year later. A recent research paper in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine may be the spark to reignite the discussion on suicides that do not have a mental health connection.

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Look to Enforceable Undertakings for OHS lessons

There are more work health and safety lessons from a Near Miss incident than a workplace death. There is also more information about how occupational health and safety (OHS) should be managed in an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) than there is from a prosecution.

Recently there were several EU’s in Queensland that illustrated these OHS management lessons. Here’s a discussion about one of them

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On psychosocial hazards, HR and OHS are getting closer……. slowly

In narrow terms, the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession has largely neglected the management of psychological harm in workplaces. Human Resources (HR) has been the “go-to” on this issue, but various government inquiries have identified major shortcomings in the HR approach. In a recent podcast, Tony Morris of law firm Ashurst interviewed an HR and OHS professional on sexual harassment and psychosocial risks at work.

In response to the question of whether these risks are no being accepted as work health and safety risks, Julia Sutherland responded that this reality has been accepted by OHS regulators but implies that the acceptance has not been to the same extent by employers. She reassures employers who have not been approaching these hazards through OHS laws and guidance that they should not be alarmed as the OHS context has only existed for “a couple of years”.

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Another attack and death of a remote area nurse

In 2008 a remote area nurse was raped and assaulted in her work-related residence in Mabuiag Island in the Torres Strait. More recently, South Australia had a similar incident – the rape and murder of nurse Gayle Woodford while working on-call alone. Both have resulted in inquiries by Coroners, Departments of Health and others, with similar outcomes, primarily that these incidents could have been prevented.

The recent outrage around Woodford’s death was that SafeWorkSA investigated and decided not to proceed with a prosecution of her employer Nganampa Health Council (NHC). The Coroner had already investigated Woodford’s death and found significant deficiencies in the NHC’s management systems and practices. Understandably questions have been asked in the South Australian Parliament, questions that raise important occupational health and safety (OHS) issues.

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