Does OHS research have a Left and a Right?

Occupational health and safety (OHS) has had an uneasy ride in political debates in Australia, often because there is a disturbing morality in laws that dictate an employer has responsibility for the safety and health of their workers, even if legal wriggle room is allowed. There is no written history of OHS in Australia except within the confines of Industrial Relations, if it gets mentioned at all.

Recently I engaged in a conversation with a professional colleague on LinkedIn (I know, didn’t your Mother always say not to engage with people on social media? Well, this is a blog so….). That colleague made some odd political statements.

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Research shows the danger of overconnection

Many companies are starting to settle into hybrid working arrangements where workers are in the office for part of their time and at home for others. The occupational health and safety (OHS) impacts are still being discovered and refined. The flexibility of these hybrid arrangements is both good and bad, as identified recently by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) in its analysis of the Right-To-Disconnect.

This could/should become a significant consideration when complying with Australia’s OHS regulations for psychologically safe workplaces currently under development.

Eurofound’s Executive Summary states:

“Digital technologies have made it possible for many workers to carry out their work at any time and anywhere, with consequent advantages and disadvantages. Potential advantages include greater autonomy, better work–life balance, improved productivity and environmental benefits. However, the constant connection enabled by information and communications technology (ICT)-based mobile devices can pose risks to health and well-being, as well as causing work–life balance conflict linked to longer working hours and the blurring of boundaries between work and private life.”

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Over-emphasising the COVID pandemic

Everyone has struggled through the COVID-19 pandemic. Many have died. We have to continue to make many allowances for businesses and people due to the disruption, but some are using the pandemic as an excuse for not doing something. Occupational health and safety (OHS) inactivity is being blamed on COVID-19 in some instances, masking or skewing people’s approach to workplace health and safety more generally.

Continue reading “Over-emphasising the COVID pandemic”

Good COVID OHS book

Late last year, lawyer Michael Tooma and epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws published “Managing COVID-19 Risks in the Workplace – A Practical Guide”. Given how COVID-19 is developing variants, one would think that such a hard copy publication would date. However, the book is structured on the occupational health and safety (OHS) obligation of managing risks, and whether the variant is Delta, Omicron or Omega (if we get that far), the OHS principles and risk management hold up.

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Danger Money corrupts OHS

The traditional manner for employers to get unsavoury or hazardous work tasks done is to offer more money. This is referred to as Danger Money in some countries and Hazard Pay in others. There has been a resurgence in Danger Money during the COVID-19 pandemic, offered by some employers and requested by some workers and unions. This negotiation is a collaborative avoidance of both groups’ occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations and should be opposed vigorously by OHS associations and advocates.

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Bad work “habits” are part of the problem

The headline immediately caught my attention:

“Five bad habits to dump before resuming work”

Australian Financial Review, January 4, 2022

Such is the power of the click-bait headline.

This article is aimed at middle managers and those working from home. It is in the Australian financial/business newspaper so articles about individual empowerment and entrepreneurship rather than structural change are expected. The article above is a classic example of the Australian Financial Review’s approach to workplace health and safety matters: a newspaper with significant influence on business leaders and executives but one that rarely quotes or approaches occupational health and safety (OHS) experts.

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