Hopefully prevention of mental injuries at work will emerge in this Royal Commission

LtoR: Professor Bernadette McSherry, Prof. Allan Fels, Penny Arnytage, Dr Alex Cockram

The first week of media coverage of Victoria’s Royal Commission into Mental Health is very thin on the roles and impacts of workplaces and work activities on people’s mental health, but it is part of the conversation.

The Public Hearings on July 4-5 had Prevention and Early Intervention as their theme. Prevention as occupational health and safety (OHS) people would apply was mostly absent. Prevention, in OHS terms, is usually about the elimination of a risk or hazard whereas the impression from the discussion in the Royal Commission over the last few days is that mental health is something that appears, strikes an individual (with ripples to relatives), is treated and a new psychological normal, a functional/social normal is established. Analysis of the social, occupational and environmental precursors, elements that OHS investigations are obliged to consider, seems missing, at the moment.

According to the Commission’s transcript Chair Penny Armytage said on July 2, 2019:

“We start these hearings with a wide lens. Not in hospitals or clinics, but in our homes, our sporting fields and our workplaces.”

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Be part of the Mental Health conversation

Public submissions for Victoria’s Royal Commission into Mental Health close on July 5 2019. If you believe that work-related mental health is important, tell the Royal Commission through its, very easy, online submission process. Below is the text of the submission I made earlier this week.

The website asks you questions, many more than I answered, so you just have to think a little bit, and comment. If you don’t have time for a detailed submission, there is a Brief Comments option.

What is already working well and what can be done better to prevent mental illness and to support people to get early treatment and support?

Employers have had legislative obligations to provide safe and healthy work environments for many decades, but the inclusion of psychological health has been largely overlooked in preference to those hazards that have a direct relationship to traumatic injury and death.  It is only since 2000, and the various campaigns since to prevent and reduce stress and bullying, that psychological risks have been on the workplace agenda.

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Robbing Peter to pay Paul – the “WorkSafe Tax” is challenged

More details of the “WorkSafe Tax” and WorkSafe Victoria’s new infringement notices and specialist construction inspectors emerged with the appearance of the Minister for Workplace Safety, Jill Hennessy, at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing on June 14 2019.

Liberal Member of Parliament, Richard Riordan went to town on the Minister. He opened with this question:

“….I refer to budget paper 5, page 23, which shows you are ripping $700 million out of the WorkCover Authority over the forward estimates. How does taking such a massive dividend tax to the government help workplace safety?”

page 5, Verified Transcript

But this issue has been bubbling along since at least 2011 when the now Premier, Daniel Andrews, vehemently opposed it.

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Burnout – OHS regulators clarify their positions

The prominence of Burnout as an occupational health and safety (OHS) matter has gained renewed prominence since the World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised it as an “occupational phenomenon“. But WHO equally stressed that Burnout

“… is not classified as a medical condition.”

SafetyAtWorkBlog asked several OHS and workplace experts in Australia and overseas about how to prevent Burnout. Below is the first of a series of articles in which Australian OHS Regulators provide their take on the issue. The next part will look at some overseas and non-regulatory perspectives.

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New estimates of the Total Harm from workplace illnesses and injury

Barry Naismith, through his OHSIntros organisation, has released his latest independent report into the performance of WorkSafe Victoria and occupational health and safety (OHS) more generally. Naismith’s contribution is a fresh context on Victoria’s safety and health regulator, and it is an excellent reminder of the prominent issues in the previous 12 months.

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