Half bored and tired to death

They both nodded in agreement when she said, “I’m half bored to death in this job, nearly had it”.  Both women were freezing, sitting outside in the covered area.  Their fingers blue.

The short morning break.  You hurry, you panic, get a quick hot drink, a cigarette, quickly back into it.  Hour after hour after hour “for the last 20 years” she said.  From 5 am when she gets up to do things before rushing to work to start at 7 am.  Rush back home at 3 pm to pick up ‘the youngan-whydidIdoit’ as she said of her late in life baby.  She looked about 40.

Of course workplace fatalities and injuries are heart breaking tragedies.  People work to earn a living, this is not a war zone.   But the more common issues at work, those that grind people hour by hour for decades of their one single life are not to do with that.

They are to do with what in polite text will spawn dots.  It’s to do with the daily tiredness, humiliation and wall-to-wall disrespect experienced by so many workers on a daily basis. It’s to do with that exhausting sense of,  ‘I’ve just about had enough’.  It’s to do with what I call F..kwit Fatigue. Continue reading “Half bored and tired to death”

Where do workers and managers learn about respect?

The origins of workplace bullying behaviour seem many.  One of the issues to, hopefully, emerge from Australia’s inquiry into workplace bullying is how to prevent and minimise bullying, but to do so, one will need to identify the causes.  And these causes need to be more than an amorphous, unhelpful concept like “workplace culture”.

David Yamadamake this comment in his blog, “Minding the Workplace“, about a recent article in a New York Times blog (gosh, social media feeds social media.  What’s a newspaper, Daddy?):

“Doctors and lawyers in training may have no idea how to conduct themselves as practitioners, other than being influenced by a lot of unfortunate “role models” on television. If we want to prevent workplace bullying, the training schools for these professions are the first and perhaps best places to start.”

This point links thematically to several recent SafetyAtWorkBlog articles about defining a safety profession, moving from a practice to a profession, workplace culture and workplace bullying. Continue reading “Where do workers and managers learn about respect?”

2007 interview on working hours, stress and resilience

In July 2007, I interviewed Michael Licenblat on the issues of workplace stress for the SafetyAtWork podcast.  Although the audio quality is not of a professional standard, it is worth revisiting Licenblat’s words as he discusses hours of work, particularly in light of the latest report by the Australian Medical Association on doctors and fatigue.

Kevin Jones

Workplace safety and the human condition

Articles and reports about decent work, dignity at work and mental health issues are increasingly appearing on my desktop.  Perhaps this is an indication of a convergence of perspectives in to a better understanding on the human imperative in the modern workplace.  It may be a realisation of where and how work fits in the human condition.

On May 1 2012 the Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (ACSJC) issued a pastoral letter on the “Dignity of Work“.  This came across my desk around the same time as I was looking at values-based safety.  The parallels between dignity and values-based safety were obvious.

The pastoral letter looks at the need for dignity in relation to casual work.  It says

“…casual work offers flexibility to balance work and family commitments, to undertake study or to supplement the income of a spouse.  But for a growing number of people, it has become an impediment to achieving a healthy and fulfilling life.  For many in insecure work, ‘flexibility’ represents a backward step rather than a path to improved wages and conditions.”

The Australian business sector rarely talks about casualisation directly but the concept is present every time there is a discussion on workplace flexibility, business’ preferred term. Continue reading “Workplace safety and the human condition”

Evidence of the need to change how and why we work

Last week Professor Rod McClure of the Monash Injury Research Institute urged Australian safety professionals to look at the ecology of safety and injury prevention.  By using the term “ecology” outside of the colloquial, he was advocating that we search for a universal theory of injury prevention.  In short, he urged us to broaden our understanding of safety to embrace new perspectives.  It could also be argued that he wanted to break the safety profession out of its malaise and generate some social activism on injury prevention – a philosophical kick in the pants.

Before discussing the latest research Australia’s Barbara Pocock has undertaken, with her colleagues Natalie Skinner and Philippa Williams, the challenge of achieving some degree of balance between the two social activities of work and non-work can be indicated by a graph provided by Dick Bryan and Mike Rafferty in a recent DISSENT magazine article about financial risk.

In 2008 people in Australian households were working over 50 hours per week.  The reasons for this are of less relevance than the fact that Australian workers are well beyond the 40-hour work week, not including any travel time.  Work has a social cost as well as a social benefit and any discussion (debate?) over productivity, as is currently occurring in Australia, must also consider the social cost of this productivity.  The graph above is a symptom of the challenge of achieving a decent quality of life and a functional level of productivity – the challenge that Pocock, Skinner and Williams have undertaken. Continue reading “Evidence of the need to change how and why we work”

Is fat the past tense of fit? WorkHealth assessment

Several years ago the board of  WorkSafe Victoria decided to fund a $A600 million health assessment program for workers from the workers’ compensation fund. The WorkHealth program has not been without its critics but WorkSafe announced this week that 1 in 4 Victorian workers have participated in the WorkHealth program.  Given this significance I undertook a work health assessment at the Safety In Action trade show.

The WorkHealth stand at the trade show had no waiting so I signed up for an assessment. The form asked basic questions about age, health, family illnesses, amount of exercise, alcohol consumption, smoking and dietary intake. I wrote that I was a fat, fifty, sedentary, moderate drinker who does not eat enough fruit. Continue reading “Is fat the past tense of fit? WorkHealth assessment”

The productivity debate in Australia misses the opportunities presented by wellbeing

At the moment Australian business is campaigning on the need to increase productivity rates in Australian workplaces.  It, with the recent support of some State governments and ideological colleagues, is seeking to achieve this by weakening the recent changes to the industrial relations structure encapsulated in the Fair Work Act.  Fair Work Australiatrade unions and industry associations are primarily focussed on the industrial relations elements of this ideological fight over productivity.
Evidence of the potential productivity and economic benefits of improved occupational health and safety has been missing in the debate yet it is this linkage that Dame Carol Black has been talking about recently in Australia.  It seems there is a keen audience for her perspective in Australia as she will be visiting the country four times in 2012.
At a recent OHS conference in Melbourne one speaker said some OHS positions in the United States are being renamed Occupational Health Productivity in recognition of the importance of wellbeing  in the OHS roles.  Renaming “wellbeing” as “productivity” provides a different context to OHS activities and should better gain senior executive attention as it would be easier to see how this activity fits with traditional operational thinking. Continue reading “The productivity debate in Australia misses the opportunities presented by wellbeing”