The continuing argument over quad bike safety in Australia mirrors many of the other occupational health and safety (OHS) debates over whose evidence is truer, is the argument about politics or safety, the cost of change and whether one size of OHS laws and enforcement fits a splintering employment structure.
The Liberal National Coalition won the recent Federal Election in Australia, retaining power and with a stronger Parliamentary influence. In terms of quad bike safety, action on the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission’s report will follow the schedule set out by the then Assistant Treasurer Stuart Roberts. Several quad bike manufacturers and their industry lobbying arm, the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI), have ramped up the pressure on the Government now that they smell another three years of sympathetic government.
It is important to keep reminding ourselves that OHS, for most Australians, remains regulated at a State level and national positions and recommendations like that of the ACCC are unlikely to be implemented nationally without Federal laws.
The Victorian Government has instigated a Royal Commission into Mental Health. At the moment it is receiving submissions to assist it in developing the Terms of Reference. This is an odd process that delays the Commission’s start and is giving the impression that the Commission has already commenced.
However, it is important that occupational health and safety (OHS) advocates become deeply involved in this Royal Commission as psychological harm in the workplace, and caused by the workplace, is a hazard that employers are obliged to try to eliminate. If the workplace context of mental health is not overtly included in the Commission’s Terms of Reference, we will miss a major opportunity for the changes required to prevent psychological incidents and will likely remain with only the symptomatic relief offered by most workplace wellbeing strategies and products.
On the Submissions website, I prioritised “Prevention and Early Intervention” and the “Prevent of Suicide” as my top priorities and make these concise suggestions.
Are there any additional themes that should be included in the terms of reference for the Royal Commission into Mental Health?
It is vital that the issue of Prevention is included in the terms of reference as investment in and attention to prevention has been shown to be the best way to achieve the most return on investment.
The workplace health and safety context should also be mentioned as work can create psychological harm but can also have benefits by providing people with a purpose as well as an independent income.
I encourage all SafetyAtWorkBlog readers who are concerned about workplace psychosocial hazards to visit the submission web page so that the Commission understands the importance that occupational health and safety has in preventing harm.
With little surprise, at the Australian Labor Party (ALP) Conference in Victoria on 26 May 2018, Premier Daniel Andrews has included the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter laws as a formal part of the campaign for re-election in November 2018.
According to his media release, if re-elected,
“.., employers will face fines of almost $16 million and individuals responsible for negligently causing death will be held to account and face up to 20 years in jail.
A re-elected Andrews Labor Government will make sure all Victorians are safe in our workplaces, with the offence to also apply when an employer’s negligent conduct causes the death of an innocent member of the public..”
There are a lot of steps between an incident and Industrial Manslaughter charges.
The Weekly Times newspaper has included an 8-page wraparound to its 7 February 2018 edition about workplace safety. The supplement is timely, the contents are indicative of cultural and political changes and the supplement is a nice summary of the multiple hazards and management approaches needed in agriculture (the same as in most industries, really).
Data quoted liberally from
In previous writings about gender and occupational health and safety (OHS), the work of Jerald Greenberg was mentioned, particularly his book “Insidious Workplace Behaviour”. His perspective seems even more pertinent today as many of us are weaving our way cautiously through communications and interactions with our work colleagues as we clarify what is acceptable behaviour so as to avoid offence or accusations of bullying and sexual harassment.
SafetyAtWorkBlog’s position is that sexual harassment is part of OHS and safety management systems due to the potential physical and psychological harm, in a similar way that bullying became an OHS concern.
Greenberg researches organisational behaviour and has written about corporate misdeeds and misbehaviour but he identified many precursors to some of these incidents.