WorkSafe Victoria provides insight into bullying investigations

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It has been known for some time that OHS regulators struggle with handling reports of workplace bullying.  Investigation of these hazards requires new inspectorate skills and take considerable time.  Investigations of bullying involve people and this is always more involved than inspecting a missing machine guard or assessing the operation of a forklift.  However, in an article in the Fairfax media on 24 July 2011 WorkSafe Victoria provides some surprising statistics that show a new perspective on workplace bullying and a contrast to recent statistics from Comcare.

The most significant statistic is that, of the 6000 reports of workplace bullying within the last 12 months, only 600 warrant further investigation and, of those, around 60 generate a physical inspection of the workplace.  These statistics may indicate a range of issues:

  • OHS regulators require greater number of inspectors.
  • Workplace bullying is being critically misunderstood by the community.
  • Workers are confused about where to report their treatment and choose WorkSafe as the agency with the highest profile for workplace issues.
  • Other workplace-related agencies and authorities, such as Fair Work Australia and the Australian Human Rights Commission, need to raise their profiles on this issue.
What is missing from the WorkSafe statistics above is the next level of intervention.  What action is being taken by the inspector?  Will prosecutions occur?  Are improvement notices applied?  There may be just as wide a gap between the 60 inspections and an appearance in court.

For readers’ interest searching for “bullying” on the Fair Work Australia site reveals no results however the Australian Human Rights Commission site results in several references – a clarification of violence, harassment and bullying (with links for further information) and a workplace bullying factsheet. Continue reading “WorkSafe Victoria provides insight into bullying investigations”

Academic clarifies objections to sex work

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Caroline Norma of RMIT University responded to some questions about sex work and brothel safety put to her by SafetyAtWorkBlog in response to her recently published opinion piece.  This article is a companion piece to an earlier SafetyAtWorkBlog article on sex work and safety.

SAWB: What action do you recommend that brothel owners should take, beyond the current legislative and licensing requirements, to ensure that only safe sex occurs on their premises?

CN: “Brothel owners are currently commissioning violence against women by operating prostitution businesses.  Prostitution is inherently a practice of violence against women, and can’t be made ‘safe’ for women by any action by pimps.  In fact, brothel owners have a financial conflict of interest with regards to ensuring the safety of women in their venues, because clients will pay more for unprotected sex acts, violent sex, body punishing sex acts like anal penetration, sex with younger women, etc.” Continue reading “Academic clarifies objections to sex work”

Brothel safety gains new media attention

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The occupational health and safety of sex workers is one of the most difficult areas to write about as the industry is politically and ideologically charged with matters of feminist ideology, human rights and sex trafficking, religious morality and NIMBY lobbying.  In such an environment, it is important that the OHS needs of sex workers not be forgotten.

On 13 July 2011, The Age newspaper reported on the threat of legal action by one sex workers on a Victorian licensed brothel, Butterflys of Blackburn.  The article raised many OHS issues for the brothel industry.  In short, the article reports that a sex worker is suing the brothel because the brothel, allegedly, established an expectation that the sex workers would allow unprotected sex, sexual acts without a condom or other protection, an offence under Victorian law.  This particular sex worker’s experience in Butterflys of Blackburn was that, when refusing unprotected sex to a client, the client assaulted her, attempted to rape her and threatened her with a gun.

The Age reports that the woman “has since been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, whiplash in her neck and a torn muscle in her shoulder.”  The worker is already receiving workers’ compensation and is pursuing compensation for permanent impairment.  Her plans for suing the brothel relate to the accusation that the brothel failed to provide a safe workplace. Continue reading “Brothel safety gains new media attention”

Back support devices don’t work but new designs should be investigated

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In 2009 Australian OHS regulators made the definitive statement on the use of back belts.  The guidance stated that:

  • Back belts don’t reduce the forces on the spine
  • Back belts don’t reduce the strain on muscles,tendons and ligaments
  • Back belts do nothing to reduce fatigue or to increase the ability to lift
  • Back belts are like holding your breath when lifting
  • Back belts can increase blood pressure and breathing rate
  • Back belts don’t reduce the chance of injury or reduce back pain.

This was a terrific example of evidence-based safety.  But this does not mean that the use of back belts should not be reconsidered if there is new evidence or new back belt designs.

One SafetyAtWorkBlog reader has drawn our attention to a new type of back support, The Tolai All Purpose Back Support.  In no way does this blog support this particular device.  In fact, there is a strong argument against the widespread use of such devices as these may advocate the reliance on PPE (personal protective equipment) rather than a higher order of control, such as task redesign, which would result in a more sustainable solution.

However, there is a counter argument of the need to support innovation and the position of continuous improvement. Continue reading “Back support devices don’t work but new designs should be investigated”

“unsafe” work images in the Adelaide Advertiser

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Recently SafetyAtWorkBlog pointed out several instances of the media showing unsafe work practices in images to support, often, unrelated articles.  These types of photos are starting to gain the attention of OHS regulators in Australia.

On 13 July 2011, the Adelaide Advertiser published the picture in support of a sports article about a soccer and cricket player.

Jimmy Okello works as a forklift driver at FrigeIt Logistics in Woodville North, which allows him to spend his leisure time pursuing his passions, cricket and soccer. Picture: Simon Cross

Forklifts are a regular cause of workplace fatalities and standing at height on the tines of a forklift is a serious matter, even when the vehicle is not moving.   Continue reading ““unsafe” work images in the Adelaide Advertiser”