OHS would benefit from a historical perspective on workplace bullying

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Every year, around this time, the mainstream media reports on the findings of employee surveys of the Victorian public service. Each year the statistics on workplace bullying are featured.  (The Age newspaper reported on the latest survey on 31 March 2013.)  But the approach to an understanding of workplace bullying has changed over the last fifteen years or so.  A brief look at the March 2001 Issues Paper on workplace bullying, released by the Victorian Workcover Authority (VWA), is useful to illustrate the degree of  change but also the origin of some of the contemporary hazard control themes.

Cover of Bullying Issues PaperThe VWA Issues Paper was always intended to lead to a formal Code of Practice but due to belligerence from various industry bodies, no code eventuated and Victoria had to make do with a guidance note.  This effectively banished workplace bullying to a nice-to-manage rather than an essential element of modern management.  Significantly, Safe Work Australia intends to release a model Code of Practice on workplace bullying shortly. Perhaps the employer associations’ attitudes have mellowed.  Perhaps it is the decline of trade union influence since 2001.

The Issues Paper roughly defines workplace bullying as:

“…aggressive behaviour that intimidates, humiliates and/or undermines a person or group.” Continue reading “OHS would benefit from a historical perspective on workplace bullying”

OHS statistics sound good but do not reflect reality

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SafetyAtWorkBlog has questioned the veracity of occupational health and safety statements by Victoria’s Assistant Treasurer, Gordon Rich-Phillips, previously.  Early in January 2013, Minister Rich-Phillips stated that:

“Victoria’s workplaces had the safest year on record in 2012…”

Victorian businesses, workers and policy-makers would benefit enormously if the government were to focus on achieving independent accurate data of workplace injury, illness and business costs instead of cherry picking statistics for political gain. Continue reading “OHS statistics sound good but do not reflect reality”

Shorten’s Centre for Workplace Leadership is likely to ignore OHS

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For some months Australia’s Workplace Relations Minister  Bill Shorten, has been talking about establishing a Centre for Workplace Leadership. This presents an opportunity for practical progress on OHS but it relies on someone joining the dots of occupational safety, workplace health and productivity – a highly unlikely occurrence.

In December 2012, Shorten started looking for a provider of the Centre, a facility that he described as

“…a flagship initiative of the Gillard Government and will play an important role in supporting our aim to increase workplace level productivity and the quality of jobs by improving leadership capability in Australian workplaces…

He also said that

“This will not be another training company. The Centre will drive a broader Continue reading “Shorten’s Centre for Workplace Leadership is likely to ignore OHS”

Safety and productivity links at risk from ill-informed ridicule and media beat-up

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Yesterday Australia’s Fairfax Media reported on a “policy” supposedly being applied in the Western Australia resources sector by Chevron Australia that requires workers to stand, rather than sit, for the purposes of increasing productivity.  The initiative has been roundly ridiculed by various political and social commentators, including the Minister for Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten. However few have mentioned that the actions by the “policy” may be in line with recent OHS guidance issued by an Australian government safety authority, Comcare, or that the Victorian Government has granted $A600,000 for research into the use of standing workstations.

SafetyAtWorkBlog has been informed that Chevron has had no role in the production of the “leaked memo” and that this memo is likely to be notes and verbal advice provided at a low-level on a worksite and even simply as part of a regular toolbox meeting.  Fairfax Media is unfairly linking two disparate issues, dragging in Chevron who is not involved with the information and potential damaging valid safety information through unjustified ridicule. Continue reading “Safety and productivity links at risk from ill-informed ridicule and media beat-up”

Considering organisational violence may provide a more effective path to controlling psychosocial issues at work

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Vaughan Bowie is an Australian academic who has chosen workplace violence as his major area of interest. Bowie came to general prominence earlier this century with several books and his contribution to the WorkcoverNSW guidance on workplace violence.

Cover from Proceedings_3rd_Workplace_Violence_2012His research has taken him to look at “organisational violence” and in October 2012, he addressed the 3rd International Conference on Violence in Healthcare (the proceedings are available HERE) on the topic in a presentation called “Understanding organizational violence: The missing link in resolving workplace violence?”

Bowie writes, in the conference proceedings (Page 155), that

“Initially much of the workplace violence (WPV) prevention and management responses focused on criminal violence from outside organizations. At the same time there was also a growing concern about service user violence on staff especially in the human services area. A later stage of this development was a growing recognition of relational violence at work.  This includes staff-on-staff violence and aggression, bullying, horizontal violence, sexual harassment and domestic violence.

Models based on these areas of WPV have been developed by the International Labor Organisation (ILO), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Injury Prevention Research Center (IPRC) and the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA) and other regulatory bodies. This presentation will show that the current models and responses based on these types of WPV are inadequate and ineffective because they largely ignore the fact that organizational culture and management style have a direct contributory effect on the types of violence experienced by employees, third parties, and service users.  The findings demonstrate that what at first appears to be criminal, service user or relational violence at work may in fact be the outcome of a type of ‘upstream’ organizational violence trickling down in a toxic way triggering further violence.” (emphasis and links added) Continue reading “Considering organisational violence may provide a more effective path to controlling psychosocial issues at work”