Sexual harassment may be an OHS issue but what priority should it receive?

One online news site in Australia has suggested that sexual harassment is an occupational health and safety (OHS) issue.  At first blush, it should be.  Sexual harassment can create mental ill-health and can certainly be harmful. But from the early days of discussions about workplace bullying and occupational violence in Australia, sexual harassment has been consciously excluded from OHS.

Is It or Isn’t It?

Some of the best discussion on bullying, harassment and violence was written by Dr Clare Mayhew for the Australian Institute of Criminology in 2000.  These included a practical handbook on prevention. (It’s peculiar that some of the most perceptive works on OHS occur outside the OHS profession.  Well perhaps not so surprising.)  In the handbook, Mayhew points out that harassment has always been an element of workplace bullying but excludes sexual harassment from her discussion:

“The Australian Institution of Criminology believes that prevention, rather than post-incident reaction, is the key to improved outcomes. However, the handbook needs to be adapted specifically to each organisation for best results. The discussions exclude activity that could be described as sexual harassment, which is extensively dealt with elsewhere.” (page 1)

This position is reflective of the OHS literature yet, on reflection, this position may have been wrong for it contributed to a fractured approach to managing workplace psychosocial hazards. 

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SafetyAtWorkBlog’s Christmas reading list

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wss-book-pix004The media is full of lists of Christmas reading, usually in order to sell books.  Below is a selection of the safety-related books that are in my Summer reading pile. (No, I am not going to list the Batman comics or Star Trek books.  That would be embarrassing.)

Social Sensemaking

I first met Robert Sams at a book launch of one of the Rob Long’s books.  Sams’ approach to risk has some similarity to Long’s, which is acknowledged in the Forewards, but those who develop or apply a theory are often more interesting than those who created the theory. The the format of the book is a “reflective journal” also makes this nook more intriguing.  It is part diary, part blog, part journal but above all it is a journey of learning with the occasional epiphany. Continue reading “SafetyAtWorkBlog’s Christmas reading list”

Drug and alcohol testing amendments may weaken safety

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Last week the former Workplace Relations Minister, Eric Abetz, informed Australians that amendments had been introduced into the Building Code 2013 concerning drugs and alcohol testing.  However an analysis of those amendments shows that the amendments may not achieve what Abetz promised.

Siobhan Flores-Walsh, a Partner with the Australian law firm, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, has provided the following table that summarises a couple of those amendments. Continue reading “Drug and alcohol testing amendments may weaken safety”

OHS is in sports but by another name

After writing a recent article about the relevance of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws to sporting clubs, I attended a sports medicine seminar to access a different perspective on workplace safety.

2015-09-21 18.43.15Having never played sports outside the obligatory high school activities, which in my high school also included snooker?!, the world of locker rooms and team sports is foreign.  But earlier this week I learnt that where OHS professionals talk about productivity, sportspeople speak of performance, and where factories address line speed, sports physicians talk of load management.  I also learnt that professional sportspeople are exempt from workers’ compensation.

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OHS and the politics of fear

Occupational health and safety (OHS) cannot exist outside social, economic and political contexts. Some OHS professionals try to convince themselves that OHS is a special case but to do so ignores the components of change that need to be addressed in order to improve workplace safety. There are parallels between OHS and contemporary political thought.

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