Psychological regulations and control

Recently International SOS conducted a webinar on workplace psychosocial hazards and controls. Parts of it were clearly marketing and promotional, but some of the speaker’s content was fascinating and useful.

The seminar’s structure was good because it included a global perspective and a local Australian. The speaker from a worldwide standpoint, Dr Rachel Lewis, used financial figures to illustrate the seriousness of workplace mental health risks. These involved annual costs to employers, costs of workplace stress and other figures in the billions. This approach encourages a misunderstanding of the audience for workplace mental health seminars and the occupational health and safety (OHS) approach to the hazard.

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Silicosis risk controls exempted for the moment

In 2019, Dr Graeme Edwards said this of the cutters of engineered stone:

“We can’t just rely on the industry to self-regulate. We need to licence the industry and we need to regulate the product….. If we can’t do this, [banning] is a realistic option.”

Recent research commissioned by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and conducted by Curtin University seems to support a ban on the import of engineered stone products with such a high level of silica that cutting them, without suitable controls, can lead to silicosis.

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Why are farms becoming safer?

It is Farm Safety Week in Australia. These types of events are intended to raise awareness of specific issues. The biggest problem with these events is that solutions are rarely presented; it is assumed that raising awareness is sufficient. This is hard to justify in agriculture, where many of the smaller and high-risk farms have been run by families for many years and often generations. As a result, most people living in the country know of someone widowed after a workplace incident or of someone like the one-armed tennis player or lawn bowler who lost an arm in an unguarded Power Take-Off.

At some point, the strategy must move from raising awareness to providing solutions.

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A new, safer work schedule or continuing employer “flexibility”?

SafetyAtWorkBlog has kept a watching brief on the Australian construction industry and its attempts to improve its workplace culture. On the initiative of no weekend work, there seems to be some dissatisfaction from Brookfield Multiplex, even though that company is a “contributing member ” of the Construction Industry Culture Taskforce (CICT), which advocates for no weekend work and a cap of 50 hours.

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“There is too little time and the ask is too big to try to change the system”.

There are many similarities between the management of occupational health and safety (OHS) and environment protection. Both seek to prevent and/or mitigate harm, and both have similarly focussed legislation. However, this similarity extends to vulnerabilities in each approach. Neither discipline is solely responsible for the lack of progress in prevention and protection, but both have not realised their potential for change.

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Heat and the need to change work

Europe is experiencing heat at, or close to, levels never recorded before. This has caused the mainstream media to issue advice on how to avoid adverse health impacts from heat exposure. However, the necessary changes to work are not receiving the attention they should.

Australia has faced such situations before, especially in the last decade, so there is some generic occupational health and safety (OHS) available for translation to the European circumstance.

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Action on Health and Safety is always a choice

Last week epidemiologist Hassan Vally wrote one article in The Age called either “Health or economy a false choice” or “COVID caution can be a win for both public health and business” (paywalled), depending on the sub-editor and format. Curiously one has a negative implication, the other, the opposite. Either way, the article illustrates the public health dichotomy that mirrors that of occupational health and safety (OHS).

OHS often requires a decision between profit or production and safety. Public Health deciders need to consider the interests of the public and the duties of government. I prefer the former headline because it states that this decision is a “choice”. Safety, occupational or public, is always a choice.

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