What makes Victoria think it is so special?

The Victorian government has released the final report of the Legislative Council Economy and Infrastructure Committee’s inquiry into the Workplace Injury Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment (WorkCover Scheme Modernisation) Bill. Many readers will already be asleep after that sentence. Forgive me, it is accurate, but is the report of any use? It certainly progresses the debate on psychosocial regulations.

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Arguing over the WorkCover scheme’s viability again avoids harm prevention

The Victorian Parliament has been debating legislation the government claims is essential to fix a “broken” workers’ compensation system. There are a lot of elements to what is broken – premium increases, political access to WorkSafe finances, political topping up of WorkSafe finances, high numbers and costs for workplace mental health compensation claims and more. What is largely missing is a discussion on the prevention of mental health injuries at work.

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Plain speaking on mental health v nuance

Plain speaking is one of the greatest challenges of any profession. Many professionals struggle to communicate their excellent work and knowledge which has created the moves for Research-To-Practice and specialised communicators (as opposed to public relations advisers). Human Resources (HR) and Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) need communications specialists, or perhaps just interpreters, if a recent article on workers compensation and mental health is anything to go by.

If we are going to achieve a successful and effective change on workplace mental health, we need to start to understand each other.

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Why is profit put before safety?

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is a remarkably insular profession.  It tends to narrow its focus on legislative compliance even though Social Determinants of Health is a core unit of tertiary OHS education. OHS professionals are also notably weak in understanding the business realities that their employers and customers face.  This inability to understand the economic realities is a common criticism of OHS, not reflecting “common sense” and being naïve.

To understand OHS’ limitations and potential, it is necessary to have a basic knowledge of the economic and political ideologies under which clients and employers work. “The Big Myth – How American Business Taught Us to Loathe Government and Love the Free Market”, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M Conway, contributes to that understanding.

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Chalk and Cheese – legal seminars on mental health at work

Over the last few months, various seminars from law firms and others have focussed on how to comply with new and impending occupational health and safety regulations related to psychosocial hazards at work. Over the last fortnight, I attended two such seminars; they were as different as chalk and cheese, even though both had strong voices from lawyers, illustrating the sources of some of the confusion over the issue felt by some employers.

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When an increase of 0.5 percentage points is described as an outrageous 43% increase

This week the Victorian Government flagged changes to the workers’ compensation premiums and eligibility. This has generated outrage from business lobby groups and the trade unions, and as he is being criticised by both political extremes, Premier Dan Andrews believes his decision, i.e. being hated by everyone, is a winner.

The Age newspaper was one of the first to report (paywalled) on the announcement of these changes on May 19, 2023. Significantly it included a quote from Dr Mary Wyatt on the economic and social importance of injury prevention. Hers has been one of the few mentions of the role of good occupational health and safety (OHS) management.

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Violence against retail workers persists

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.

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