Why all the arguing over a workplace bullying definition?

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There have been many calls in Australia for a national definition of workplace bullying.  Apparently the definition below that has applied in OHS legislation for over ten years in Victoria is insufficient:

“Repeated unreasonable behaviour directed toward a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety.”

The definition above was the one used in the first draft Code of Practice on Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying produced by Safe Work Australia in September 2011.

The definition was questioned by Moira Rayner, as a representative of the Law Institute of Victoria, at recent public hearings into workplace bullying.  Researchers said that a lack of a national definition is a major reason that research in workplace bullying has been so thin.

A quick survey of workplace bullying definitions in Australia is listed below:

“Unreasonable and inappropriate workplace behaviour includes bullying, which comprises behaviour which Continue reading “Why all the arguing over a workplace bullying definition?”

Australian Government moves on quad bike safety

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Just before Christmas in 2009, Dr Yossi Berger speculated for an information network about the safety of quad bikes.  He called it QuadWatch.  Over two years later, on 13 July 2012, Australia’s Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten announced his own QuadWatch.

In the 2009 Croaky Blog, Dr Berger suggested

“a network could be called QuadWatch and it would become a clearing house for all needs related to quad bikes, particularly in relation to safety standards.  All training needs, advice about accessories, advice about the correct machine for a certain job or terrain could be handled by such regional cells.”

Shorten described the new QuadWatch as

“… a community based network bringing together farmers, community groups, emergency services and local government.

Shorten’s QuadWatch is broadly consultative but is a little different in its communication strategy.  Establishing websites in support of a political strategy have not had the greatest success in the last few years under the Federal Labor Government and QuadWatch is not the end point in the safety debate.

It is worth deconstructing the Minister’s media release a little.

Continue reading “Australian Government moves on quad bike safety”

Workplace bullying inquiry followed the script, mostly

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The Melbourne public hearing in support of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Workplace Bullying has concluded after over an hour of personal impact statements that were confronting, saddening but, overall, defiant.

The hearing began more sedately and predictable. The employers’ association, ACCI, says that workplace bullying is a broad social issue that needs broad social control measure. In rough translation, “it’s not our problem”. The employers also see everything in terms of industrial relations so prevention of harm rarely features in recommendations.

The ACTU stressed that workplace bullying IS a workplace issue and therefore should be principally “managed” under occupational health and safety laws. Continue reading “Workplace bullying inquiry followed the script, mostly”

“Loose” workplace bullying statistics published

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Workplace bullying policy matters are at their peak in Australia this week as public hearings occur at the House Standing Committee on Education and Employment inquiry into workplace bullying. Several experts on the prevention of workplace bullying will be appearing at these hearings but the topicality also allows others to release or promote data on workplace bullying.

Safety Consultants Australia (SCA) released a “blueprint” on Safety Hazard: Workplace Bullying in March 2012 that has been recirculated this week. The blueprint is a useful example of the care that needs to be taken when summarising data on workplace bullying.

SCA states, IN VERY BIG LETTERS, that the Productivity Commission estimated that

“Workplace Bullying costs Australian employers between $6 – $36 billion every year.”

SCA has released a flyer with the same information in EVEN BIGGER LETTERS however the Productivity Commission’s report Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation: Occupational Health & Safety (2010)  states on page 279:

“Estimates of the prevalence and cost of psychosocial hazards vary considerably. For example, using international studies as a guide, estimates of the annual cost of workplace bullying to employers and the economy in Australia ranged from $6 billion to $36 billion (in 2000).” Continue reading ““Loose” workplace bullying statistics published”

Unanswered questions on Safety Institute activities

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Earlier this year, the Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) launched its OHS Body of Knowledge (BoK) project, an excellent collection of workplace safety information and research but one that has had restrictions imposed on it that seem contrary to its purpose.

SafetyAtWorkBlog has communicated repeatedly to the SIA about the BoK project and the, seemingly, related operation of the Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board (AOHSEAB) but, although the communications have been acknowledged, no responses have been received.  Some of the questions go to the heart of the meaning of an OHS profession and body of knowledge but also to the relationships of various organisations under, or connected to, the SIA such as the Health and Safety Professionals Association (HaSPA) and AOHSEAB.

OHS Body of Knowledge

BoK contains over 30 articles about most of the major workplace safety issues of modern times.  These have been produced by some of the most prominent OHS researchers in Australia.  But it can only be read on a computer screen and the PDF files have a security level that forbids any cutting and pasting.  Why would this important safety information be any different to guidance and data that OHS regulators provide for fair use?  The SIA has never provided a reason for this peculiar approach to spreading OHS knowledge.

The SIA professes the organisation to be about the following:

“We are committed to creating a profession that can deliver the highest standards of OHS and we do this through the engagement of our individual members, corporate and strategic partners, governing bodies and key profession stakeholders.

Through the SIA, individuals have access to qualified timely advice into public policy and regulation, research and development to advance OHS knowledge and guidance. We have developed a body of knowledge to set health and safety standards, procedures and practices to be adopted on a national basis across the profession.”

SafetyAtWorkBlog posed the following questions to the appropriate contact person, Pam Pryor, Registrar, of the  Australian OHS Education Accreditation Board  in early May 2012.  The AOHSEAB issued its first ever newsletter on 5 July 2012. (Hyperlinks have been added) Continue reading “Unanswered questions on Safety Institute activities”