Trucking inquiries scare the Conservatives

Australia’s newspapers have recently reported on the moves by the Federal Government to review the safety and working conditions of the country’s truck drivers. As expected, The Australian newspaper is painting this as the Government paying back its ideological and financial backers – the trade unions – and the resurrection of the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT), even though the Government denies this will happen.

Occupational health and safety (OHS) sits behind some elements of the debate. As with most things OHS, it will not be a game-changer in a discussion over pay rates and minimum standards, but it is a serious consideration, and deservedly so.

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The two extremes of managing burnout

Two new books about burnout arrived on my doorstep this week. They could not be more different. They reflect the mess of approaches to this type of psychosocial injury. Only one provides valid, useful evidence and advice.

Bev Aisbett released a book that I found unreadable – partly because of the advice offered but mostly because of the atrocious formatting where she YELLS almost all the time in the most annoying social media way. Below is a random example.

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Sometimes marketing gets in the way of OHS information

The internet and social media are peppered with articles that are ostensibly about occupational health and safety (OHS) and psychosocial health and wellbeing but are really marketing exercises. These things pop up frequently on LinkedIn. A recent example is from Lyra Health called “Workforce Mental Health Trends for 2023: Top 3 Predictions“. You can see from the title why I would be interested in obtaining the full survey report.

I chose not to download the company’s survey for the following reasons.

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2022 review indicates the amount of OHS work needed in 2023

The end-of-year reviews are starting to emerge from Australia’s law firms. The most recent release is from Maddocks, who have released several short reports on occupational health and safety (OHS) hazards and suggested controls for employers to apply. So this is a year-in-review for 2022, but it is also a forecast of what needs to be changed in 2023.

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HR, welcome to the OHS world and start getting used to it

In an article on burnout in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age on December 10 2022 (paywalled), there was a peculiar quote and some paraphrasing of Sarah McCann, chief executive of the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI), indicating the size of the challenges facing human resources professionals in preventing psychosocial harm in Australian workplaces.

The article is a peculiar one. It states that burnout has been categorised as an occupational risk by the World Health Organisation but then reports on psychological support organisations who are applying the concept outside of work activities. The justification for this is that the work undertaken at home or in caring for a family is unpaid work but still work, so the occupational definition applies. That’s a stretch, but it’s possible.

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Dunlop on psychosocial risks in law firms

Recently Maddocks law firm partner Catherine Dunlop spoke on the Lawyers Weekly Show podcast about psychosocial risks in the workplace. Although the podcast aims at legal practices, Dunlop’s comments and advice seem to apply to many white-collar jobs and professions.

Dunlop said that the discussion about psychosocial hazards at work has matured since the sexual harassment Respect@Work report and that:

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Stress dressed up as burnout

One of the impediments to a discussion about mental health at work is the discussion of burnout. There is little doubt that burnout is real, but often it is used as a synonym for mental illness, which is confusing workers and employers, making the prevention of psychosocial harm seem more complex than it is.

Recently a Sydney-based fintech company called Flare released a discussion paper or guide advising on how to manage burnout. It said:

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