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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“…this mother introduced her son to his first employer and within a year he was dead”

Recently Jan Carrick spoke with SafetyAtWorkBlog about how her life changed after the death of her son Anthony, who was on the first day of his new job sweeping floors. Jan was responding to a series of questions put to her and others. One of those others was Andrea Madeley.

Andrea Madeley has been an outspoken advocate for changes in occupational health and safety (OHS) laws since her son died in a workplace incident in 2004. In response Madeley established the influential advocacy group VOID – Voice of Industrial Death. Madeley has recently qualified as a Solicitor.

SafetyAtWorkBlog wanted to tap into the wisdom of those who have already experienced the death of a loved one at work and who has gone through all the related court processes, in the hope that this will provide an important perspective to those around Australia who are in the early stages of similar tragic experiences.

Below are Andrea’s responses to SafetyAtWorkBlog’s questions.

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Addressing the invisible causes of visible harm

The trade union movement was instrumental in showing that workplace bullying was a pervasive problem in Australian workplaces.  Many Codes of Practice and guidances for workplace bullying and occupational violence were written shortly after the action by the Australian Council of Trade Unions almost two decades ago.  But, for some reason, although sexual harassment was mentioned in those early documents, it never received the attention in occupational health and safety (OHS) circles that, in hindsight, it should have.

Perhaps a more sustainable and effective strategy would be to focus on the “harassment” rather than the “sexual”, or in

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OHS is often about broken promises

Occupational health and safety (OHS) is often about promises.  Employees trust their bosses to provide them with a job and the employer promises to provide a workplace that is as safe as possible.  There are also contractual policies which formalise OHS relationships between client and contractor.  But OHS is more often about those more personal promises and expectations between the boss and the worker.

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AI Group responds to media report on apprentice’s death

Free Access

The Australian Industry Group and its Chief Executive Innes Willox have been criticised on social media in Australia today as a result of an ABC report into a workplace fatality that occurred during the AI Group’s apprenticeship program.  The criticism has come as the AI Group is very active on matters of occupational health and safety policy to its members and government

The AI Group provided SafetyAtWorkBlog with this statement concerning the report: Continue reading “AI Group responds to media report on apprentice’s death”