The 23rd World Congress for Safety and Health at Work was officially opened last evening after a day of occupational health and safety (OHS) workshops. The indigenous Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony were excellent, and from the number of delegates recording the dancing, entertaining and enlightening. The same cannot be said for the speeches.
Ten years ago, I was enlightened by a presentation on masculinity and occupational health and safety (OHS) by Dean Laplonge at a safety conference in Canberra. He has continued researching that interconnection, and visiting WA and recently released his latest report written for WorkSafe WA after a series of “roadshows”.
After years of scandals in what has been described as the epitome of toxic masculinity, the West Australian mining industry claims to have changed its culture and created a psychologically safer work environment. Culture-As-Usual was not an option after multiple exposures of work-related suicides, sexual assaults, and harassment uncovered by independent and parliamentary inquiries. Laplonge revisited Western Australia and reported on the progress.
Occupational health and safety (OHS) has many myths, as do many other business disciplines. This is particularly concerning in a discipline that advocates evidence-based decision-making and pushes for peer-reviewed independent research. Sometimes these myths relate to using gym balls as office chairs or back belts or “safe lifting techniques” to reduce manual handling risks or, and this is one of my own suspicions, ankle-high safety boots that reduce the risk of ankle injuries. There are also mixed messages about sit-stand desks. (Counterarguments welcome in the comments below)
The United States seems to be in the early stages of an urban myth about police overdosing after accidental exposure to fentanyl, although this has been cooking since at least 2021. The nature of social media and the internet suggests that sometime soon, this accusation or experience will appear in Australia. Various US–based media have looked at this occupational hazard, with the latest being National Public Radio (NPR) on May 16, 2023.Continue reading “A new unicorn – the creation of a work health and safety myth”
Australian trade unions are in a difficult position on the matter of workplace mental health. New regulations require employers and, to a lesser extent, workers to act on a positive duty to prevent psychosocial harm. However, how does one achieve the necessary changes without being financially penalised?
Recently, the Victorian Secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), John Setka, granted The Australian newspaper’s Workplace Editor, Ewin Hannan, an exclusive interview (paywalled) in which occupational health and safety (OHS) was discussed.
The Australian Financial Review published an article on April 14 2023 (paywalled) about workplace health and safety risks faced by retail workers. The entry point was the stabbing death of twenty-year-old bottle shop worker Declan Laverty in Darwin. That a business newspaper includes an extensive article on workplace safety is a positive, but it tries to be too inclusive and overlooks hazard control measures.
Unless you are a teacher, it is difficult to comprehend the extent of stress and pressure teachers can face at school. A recent court case in Queensland involving an appeal against a decision by the Regulator not to accept a workers’ compensation claim provides some insight into the teacher’s lot.
The case, Roberts v Workers’ Compensation Regulator  QIRC 76 (6 March 2023), was won by Ms Karen Roberts as the Commissioner decided that Roberts’ experiences at work, over time, were the major contributor to her post-traumatic stress disorder. There are statements in this decision that the school’s management practices did not worsen her experiences, and there are arguments over the degree of influence of other factors, but there is no occupational health and safety (OHS) perspective here. Even though it is not an OHS prosecution, there is an important OHS context.
Recently the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work released an “e-guide” on managing stress and psychosocial risks at work. It offers a radical contrast to some of the information on risks and burnout that originate from the United States.
The e-guide is really a PDF file that uses the software’s features to establish links between the table of contents and relevant pages of information. This is a little “old school” but the Agency often does this, I think, to allow for wide distribution and easy application.