Noticeable increase in workplace mental stress claims

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Australia’s Comcare agency has identified a “54% increase in mental stress claims” since 2006-2007.  This is of great concern to the agency, which covers the OHS and compensation needs of Australian government agencies and others, as Work Health and Safety General Manager, Neil Quarmby, outlines in a media release on 21 July 2011.

Quarmby states

“Clearly this trend could have serious consequences for employees and employers through serious health issues and a significant loss in productivity. I am keen that employers get the message that health and safety at work is not only a physical issue but also increasingly involves mental health as well…”

The media release has generated some media attention (audio article available HERE) but often this has not focussed on the trend mentioned and instead on an element in the media release that involves the OHS issue-du-jour, workplace bullying. Continue reading “Noticeable increase in workplace mental stress claims”

The European experience with economic incentives for OHS improvements

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Last decade the New South Wales government operated a “premium discount scheme” intended to reinvest workers’ compensation funds into preventative safety measures and programs.  Other OHS jurisdictions had a similar authority but chose not to apply it.  Since then economic safety incentives have not been on the political agenda. 

However this is not the case in other parts of the world.  In 2010, the European Agency of Safety and Health at Work undertook a review of economic incentives (“Economic incentives to improve occupational safety and health: a review from the European perspective”).  Those findings may be worth considering in light of some of the political changes on incentives in other areas of public policy, such as carbon taxes.

From outside the European Union, the comparative charts of member schemes are of less interest than the literature review and report conclusions.  The incentives that the report says have some positive benefits include

Occupational Medicine provides OHS clues

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Medical research rarely provides definitive answers to occupational hazards.  What research provides are clues.  These clues lead to additional research which, over time, can generate answers and solutions.  But OHS specialists often do not have the luxury of waiting for an answer before taking some action to reduce risk and harm and often the clues are enough to take action or at least begin planning that action.

The Journal of the Society of Occupational Medicine is a treasure trove of clues.  Below are some of those clues that may help OHS professionals in controlling hazards and anticipating others.

Man flu and stress

One team of researchers in Korea[1] has identified

“Males experiencing work stress in job demand, job control and social support reported an increased occurrence of the common cold at follow-up but this association was not seen in females.”

As stress is an increasingly important element of workplace health and safety, this research indicates that what some are dismissing as “man flu” may have some validity as stressor indicators.  Continue reading “Occupational Medicine provides OHS clues”

WorkSafe media director, Bernie Dean, talks about the new awards strategy

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SafetyAtWorkBlog has been vocal on the need for Australia OHS awards to be reinvigorated, freshened up and re-booted.  WorkSafe Victoria launched a new interactive approach to its State awards several months ago with the intention of engaging the community and trying to maintain a momentum for the award process throughout the year.

In an exclusive interview in July 2011, WorkSafe Victoria’s Director of Communications, Bernie Dean, told SafetyAtWorkBlog that changes to the award process was essential because, amongst other reasons, there was a slow steady decline in the number of applications and a fall in the number of suitable applications.  He acknowledged that some of the extensions of application deadlines in previous years have been due to insufficient numbers of applications.  He also said that the assessment or judging process had become overly long and bureaucratic but having applications available throughout the year should help. Continue reading “WorkSafe media director, Bernie Dean, talks about the new awards strategy”

Targeting the most dangerous industries but not those with the most deaths

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On 4 July 2011, WorkSafe Victoria released a media notice entitled “WorkSafe to target state’s most dangerous industries“.  (The title of the media release currently available on-line has been changed from “dangerous” to “risky”.)  Below are the industries that WorkSafe considers the most dangerous:

  • Food manufacturing and processing,
  • wood product manufacturing,
  • fabricated metal,
  • transport equipment manufacturing,
  • plastics and rubber manufacturing,
  • road transport,
  • warehousing and storage and
  • residential aged care services.

WorkSafe advised SafetyAtWorkBlog on 4 July, that these eight industries were chosen as the targets for an OHS enforcement blitz because in 2010 these sectors generated 7,075 workers’ compensation claims.  2,808 of the claims related to manual handling injuries. Continue reading “Targeting the most dangerous industries but not those with the most deaths”