Preview of Australia’s new work-related psychological injuries guidance

Peta Miller has worked at Safe Work Australia (SWA) for around 17 years.  She leaves there at the end of June.  One of her last public appearances for SWA was the National Health and Safety Conference in Melbourne in May 2018 at which she provided an outline of the new work-related psychological injuries guidance that has been signed-off by SWA but not yet released to the public.

This guide is said to be a large one but not one that requires a re-education on safety and psychological terms.  There is discussion about applying the risk management Hierarchy of Controls to psychosocial hazard identification, the prevention of psychological harm through the design of good work and the identification of psychological hazards without the need to diagnose a medical condition.

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USA response on sexual harassment is interesting but can be better

Australia continues to develop various Codes and Guidances for the prevention and management of sexual harassment, particularly in the creative industries.  America’s Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) released some guidance about its Code of Conduct on April 12 2018. It is educative but Australia can do better.

A positive in SAG’s announcement is that it clearly places sexual harassment under the category of workplace safety which allows for a broad approach to the hazard and one that is supported by legislation and an employer’s duty of care. 

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When workplace behaviour becomes insidious

In previous writings about gender and occupational health and safety (OHS), the work of Jerald Greenberg was mentioned, particularly his book “Insidious Workplace Behaviour”.  His perspective seems even more pertinent today as many of us are weaving our way cautiously through communications and interactions with our work colleagues as we clarify what is acceptable behaviour so as to avoid offence or accusations of bullying and sexual harassment.

SafetyAtWorkBlog’s position is that sexual harassment is part of OHS and safety management systems due to the potential physical and psychological harm, in a similar way that bullying became an OHS concern.

Greenberg researches organisational behaviour and has written about corporate misdeeds and misbehaviour but he identified many precursors to some of these incidents.

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Two new audio readings

Free Access

Several past SafetyAtWorkBlog articles have been posted in SoundCloud as audio files.  One article is a reading of two articles from last year about Queensland’s industrial manslaughter laws.

The other reminds us that sexual harassment and sexual assault did not appear in relation to Harvey Weinstein accusations.  The Australian Human Rights Commission report into sexual assault on university campuses provides an additional context to sexual harassment and workplace health and safety.

Both articles are also available below:

Industrial Manslaughter

Sexual Assault in Universities

Kevin Jones

Sexual harassment may be an OHS issue but what priority should it receive?

One online news site in Australia has suggested that sexual harassment is an occupational health and safety (OHS) issue.  At first blush, it should be.  Sexual harassment can create mental ill-health and can certainly be harmful. But from the early days of discussions about workplace bullying and occupational violence in Australia, sexual harassment has been consciously excluded from OHS.

Is It or Isn’t It?

Some of the best discussion on bullying, harassment and violence was written by Dr Clare Mayhew for the Australian Institute of Criminology in 2000.  These included a practical handbook on prevention. (It’s peculiar that some of the most perceptive works on OHS occur outside the OHS profession.  Well perhaps not so surprising.)  In the handbook, Mayhew points out that harassment has always been an element of workplace bullying but excludes sexual harassment from her discussion:

“The Australian Institution of Criminology believes that prevention, rather than post-incident reaction, is the key to improved outcomes. However, the handbook needs to be adapted specifically to each organisation for best results. The discussions exclude activity that could be described as sexual harassment, which is extensively dealt with elsewhere.” (page 1)

This position is reflective of the OHS literature yet, on reflection, this position may have been wrong for it contributed to a fractured approach to managing workplace psychosocial hazards. 

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