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2013
Archive for: July

A lack of workplace support is associated with depression, says new research.

“Respondents who reported low levels of support from colleagues had twice the likelihood of having significant depression symptoms compared to those who report[ed] having support,” says the study, The Relationship between Work Characteristics, Wellbeing, Depression and Workplace Bullying.

“Consistent with the association between support from colleagues and depression, low levels of support from one’s manager was also associated with significantly higher risk of depression symptoms.”

The study shows that the risk of depression also appears to be affected by relational justice: superiors who provide consistent and sufficient information, who are willing to listen to problems and who provide criticism or praise.

The study reveals “a pattern of increasing risk of depression with declining levels of relational justice, with those reporting the poorest organisational culture showing significantly greater risk of depression compared to those reporting the best organisational culture”.

Workplace bullying was also associated with increased incidence of depression.

But the report notes, “It is not just the experience of depression symptoms that is seen to be elevated among those who experience workplace bullying.”

Suicidal thoughts are also more likely in those who are currently being bullied at work. They are “about twice as likely as those never bullied to report feeling that their life is hardly worth living, report feeling that they would be better off dead, and report that they had thought of taking their own life”, the report states.

The findings are part of the Australian National University’s Personality & Total Health (PATH) Through Life Project longitudinal study, which began in 1999.

The latest results are from interviews conducted in 2011–2012 with workers who were then aged between 32 and 36 years.

For help and support, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For more details on the study, visit Safe Work Australia.

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) will start hearing bullying claims in January 2014 under legislation that passed federal parliament last week.

The Fair Work Amendment Bill 2013 passed both houses of parliament last Thursday evening and was assented to on Friday.

From January, any worker employed in a constitutionally covered business will be able to apply to the FWC for an order to stop bullying.

The FWC will be able to issue any order it considers appropriate other than the payment of money.

For more details, visit the legislation and last fortnight’s Safe-T-Bulletin.

A Queensland roofing contractor has been ordered to undergo training under the new work health and safety laws.

The contractor was prosecuted in Brisbane Industrial Magistrates Court for breaching the Queensland Work Health and Safety Act 2011.

The contractor had failed to comply with a direction from a workplace health and safety inspector to cease work until fall protection was in place, according to Work Health and Safety (WHS) Queensland in a media statement.

“There also were counts of obstructing and intimidating an inspector.”

The contractor pleaded guilty and was placed on a one-year good behaviour bond with a surety of $10,000. He was also directed to undertake relevant trade training by December, said WHS Queensland.

The magistrate said the sentences were the first to be handed down under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, introduced last year.

“The wider options and choices now available to courts might help those facing charges under the legislation develop better culture and awareness as well as affording the courts the more recognised and historical avenues of punishment and deterrence,” said WHS Queensland head Dr Simon Blackwood in a media release.

For more details, visit Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

The New South Wales authority charged with preventing bullying in the workplace is now the focus of an inquiry into allegations of bullying among its ranks.

Last week, the NSW Upper House agreed to an inquiry into allegations of bullying at WorkCover NSW.

The inquiry follows a motion put to the Upper House by Greens MP David Shoebridge.

The motion referred to a recent case before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, which found that WorkCover had bullied one of its employees out of his job, and to previous investigations into WorkCover’s conduct.

In the case referred to in the motion, NSW Industrial Relations Commission deputy president Rodney W Harrison said in his ruling: “I find this conduct by the organisation [WorkCover] to be shabby and disgraceful. It lacks any objectivity and has the characterisation of institutional bullying.”

The motion recommended that the Upper House General Purpose Standing Committee No. 1 inquire into the culture of WorkCover, WorkCover’s role as State Regulator of workplace bullying, recommendations to address issues raised, and any other related matters.

The motion was carried.

Submissions to the inquiry close on 23 August 2013.

For more details, visit the NSW Parliament, the Case and The Greens.

A South Australian magistrate has fined a company director $200,000 and criticised him for taking out indemnity insurance to cover criminal work health and safety penalties.

Director Paolo Maione and his company, Ferro Con (SA) Pty Ltd, pleaded guilty in the Magistrates Court of South Australia to breaching the South Australian Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Act 1986.

The prosecution followed a SafeWork SA investigation into an incident in which a worker died at the company on 16 July 2010.

The investigation found that a crane was lifting a 1.8-tonne, 14 metre-long steel beam when the sling supporting the beam broke, causing the end of the beam to drop onto the worker’s head.

The worker was knocked unconscious and died a short time later.

“No risk assessment or job safety analysis had been undertaken for this type of lift, and no safe working procedure had been devised to take account of the particular hazards of the task,” Industrial Magistrate Stephen Lieschke said in his ruling.

Maione and the company were each convicted and fined $200,000. Maione was ordered to pay $20,000 in compensation to the worker’s family.

He was also ordered to publish notices of the conviction and penalty to the employees of the companies of which he was the responsible officer on the date of the judgement (27 June 2013).

In addition, the notice was to be published in the Saturday Adelaide Advertiser, The Weekend Australian, and the journal of the Master Builders Association.

Magistrate Lieschke said that the Court was unable to challenge the company’s “general insurance policy, which apparently included indemnification of its Director for fines imposed for his criminal conduct”.

Lieschke was scathing of such indemnity. “In my opinion Mr Maione’s actions have also undermined the Court’s sentencing powers by negating the principles of both specific and general deterrence.

“The message his actions send to employers and Responsible Officers is that with insurance cover for criminal penalties for OHS offences there is little need to fear the consequences of very serious offending, even if an offence has fatal consequences.

“As for specific deterrence Mr Maione has not said he no longer has such insurance for his current businesses.”

For more details, visit the case and SafeWork SA.


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