In some Australian workplaces, wellness programs seem to be a dominant interpretation of occupational health and safety (OHS). This is being encouraged through the support of the OHS regulatory agencies. According to one expert, the benefits of workplace wellness programs remain under-researched and what research there is requires validation. Recently Zrui Song of Harvard Medical School said this to the ABC’s Norman Swan:
“There has been a couple of decades of evidence, largely observational in nature, studies that are from single institution or single workplace interventions focused on workplace wellness. And by and large this body of evidence has suggested that the return on investment for workplace wellness programs can be quite large. However, this body of evidence has been limited. They have been limited by the ability to show causal effects of workplace wellness programs…”
Australian research into
occupational health and safety (OHS) is a lot less than research into other
areas of business and management, especially in relation to the psychological
wellbeing of workers at all levels of the corporate structure. As such, it has become common for experts,
advocates and researchers from the social, non-work, public health areas to
overlay general and broad research findings on to workplaces – they are, in
effect, filling a vacuum. But just
because the OHS research into psychological harm is thin or immature does not
mean that work does not have its own characteristics.
Over many years OHS has
produced research and guidelines that include the psychological effect of
sexual harassment, but it has been ineffectual or ignored for may reasons. This submission is an attempt to illustrate
the potential already in existence
in Australia that could be used to prevent sexual harassment-related
This submission has
drawn almost exclusively on Australian-based documentation and research to
better satisfy the title and aim of this Inquiry. This is not saying that actions and data from
overseas are not relevant: there is some excellent information on the matter
from the European Union,
for instance. But quite often people seem to look overseas for evidence and
solutions when Australia already has good research and advice, if one looks.
Summary of key points
harassment often results in psychological harm to workers, and employers and
PCBUs already have a legislative obligation under OHS/WHS law to eliminate
(prevent) risks to health and safety, including psychological risks.
accepting that sexual harassment is a form of workplace violence, new
prevention options may be available.
has a range of general and specific guidance on the systematic prevention of
the psychological harm generated by sexual harassment, produced by Federal and
State or Territorial health and safety regulators.
of sexual harassment may be extremely disruptive to workplaces even though it remains
the most effective control measure.
strategy to prevent sexual harassment must have a multidisciplinary and
assessment of sexual harassment risks can be determined to internationally-recognised
The National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces has started to release some of its public submissions. The Inquiry has received a lot of submissions but this blog will continue its search for strategies to prevent sexual harassment and the related psychological harm, as indicated in the Inquiry’s terms of reference and reiterated repeatedly by the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins.
One submission by Anita McKay is very detailed and titled “Recent Developments in Sexual Harassment Law: Towards a New Model”.
Occupational health and safety (OHS) and Human Resources (HR) disciplines continue to, mostly, operate in isolation and, sometimes, in conflict. Part of the reason is that workplace matters are often seen as either OHS or HR, even though they are both.
SafetyAtWorkBlog looks for why Australian workers have four weeks of Annual Leave.
Australia, as are many other countries, is in the transition phase for the latest Standard for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems – ISO45001. The Standard has been accepted by Australia as relevant to its jurisdiction and discussion seem quiet. However, the work of the technical committee on this Standard (SF-001) continues. The Head of the Delegation for Standards Australia responsible for the 45001 series of Standards, David Solomon, provided the following status update.
ISO (International Organization for Standardization) has formed a new International Technical Committee (TC283) that has been charged with the responsibility of developing the following standards that are in the suite of international Standards that ISO45001 leads.