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Archive for: November

WorkSafe ACT has released a superhero video and comic strip as part of a campaign to teach young people about safety, but its use of gendered stereotypes is questionable.

The Hazardman campaign includes a video, four comic strips, fact sheets, posters and a competition.

The story is largely based on the superhero Hazardman and includes other characters: Manuelle Mayhem, Safety Women, Betty Brown, The Toppler and Dr Complacency.

WorkSafe says the campaign’s initial target is school students, and construction, retail and hospitality workers.

ACT Work Safety Commissioner Mark McCabe described Hazardman as a lighthearted and engaging way to get young people talking about workplace safety.

However, the video and comic strips make use of gendered stereotypes to tell the story. So what else are they teaching/reinforcing apart from safety?

In the video, for example, the female villain Manuelle Mayhem is depicted using the temptress stereotype. She taunts a male worker who is about to lift a heavy object, saying, “Are you man enough to lift it?”.

Also, in the list of characters Mayhem’s weakness is described “as anyone who can think or reason for themselves”, raising questions about her intelligence.

The female superhero, Safety Woman, doesn’t appear in the video, but she is in the comic strip. However, she is depicted as a sidekick. Although she is described in the list of characters as a smart, bold expert, who is never far when danger is near, she only saves the day in one of the four online comics when Hazardman knows he can’t get there on time.

Her presumed alter ego, Betty Brown, while described in the list of characters as a talented head chef at a classy restaurant, is cast as appearing clumsy and accident prone to hide her true identity, and a damsel in distress who needs to be rescued by Hazardman. He saves the day by swooping in and scooping her up in his arms, and she responds by saying, “Thanks Hazardman. You’re my hero”.

McCabe dismissed assertions that the stereotyping in the comics and video depicted women in subordinate and negative lights, saying the female characters had been misinterpreted.

Manuelle Mayhem was not depicted as unintelligent, he said.

Safety Woman was not Hazardman’s sidekick, but his “equally competent ally and a superhero in her own right, with her own history, adventures etc.,” he said. Her story would be told in the near future.

He said Betty Brown is made to appear clumsy and accident prone to cover up her true identify just like Clark Kent in Superman. “Being a head chef is very tough job in an industry generally dominated by men,” he added.

McCabe said the goal was to create engaging characters. “The overall goal is not to create a character or characters [that] are so bland that the target audience does not engage with them.”

He conceded there was “a bit of gender stereotyping in the comics”; however, he didn’t believe it was a “prominent characteristic”.

“Many hero-type characters do display a bit of gender stereotyping in some way—even if only in that they are usually presented as males with impossible physiques.”

He said the audience would understand “that the world of super heroes is not portrayed as the real world—it is a fantasy creation.”

If that’s the case, will the audience distinguish safety from the fantasy?

He also rejected assertions that WorkSafe ACT had responsibility to help promote gender equality. “Our job is not to promote gender equality; our job is to promote safety at work.”

A Safe Work Australia spokesperson said it supported the Hazardman project as part of Safe Work Australia Month as well as other activities to raise awareness about work health and safety within a variety of demographics and industries.

But at this stage Safe Work Australia does not intend to roll out the Hazardman project nationally.

For more details, visit the Hazardman website.

Published on 21 November 2013 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

Almost half of Australian workers who take time off for depression hide the reason from their employer, says a new SANE Australia study.

“Almost 1 in 2 who hadn’t informed their employer (48%) had felt they would put their job at risk if they told their employer the reason for time off,” said the study Impact of Depression at Work: Australia Audit.

Sane Australia said this is almost double the number of people compared with workers surveyed in Europe.

Australians diagnosed with depression also took less time off work than European workers. “The average number of working days taken off during their last episode was 14.6 days compared to 35.9 days reported by European workers.”

“Further research is needed to determine why people are returning to work sooner in Australia,” says SANE Australia CEO, Jack Heath.

“It may be people are getting better treatment or it may be because of the greater stigma attached to mental illness.”

Sane Australia said Australian managers wanted more support from HR departments, more mental health training and more counselling for staff.

For more details, visit Sane Australia.

Published on 21 November 2013 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

The long-awaited bullying code of practice will now appear as a guide. Its release coincides closely with White Ribbon Day, which aims to raise awareness about ending violence against women.

A majority of Safe Work Australia members met last week and agreed to publish the first versions of the Guide for Preventing and Responding to Workplace Bullying and the guide for workers Workplace Bullying—A Worker’s Guide.

The guides will be available by the end of November.

A guide differs from a code of practice approved under the Work Health and Safety Act in a jurisdiction as it is not automatically admissible in court proceedings as evidence of what is known about a hazard, risk or control.

White Ribbon Day will be held on 25 November and will draw attention to the high proportion of women affected by violence in our community, including in the workplace.

“Over sixty per cent of women experience some form of violence at work. Seventy five per cent report experiencing unwelcome and unwanted sexual behaviour at work,” says White Ribbon Australia.

“Twenty per cent of victims who were stalked by their previous partner reported that the perpetrator loitered outside the workplace, thereby presenting potential OH&S risks to employees and businesses.

“Domestic and family violence in Australia is conservatively estimated to directly cost employers over $484 million per annum.”

For more details on bullying and other guides and codes of practice, visit Safe Work Australia, and for more information on stopping violence at work visit White Ribbon Australia.

Published on 21 November 2013 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

The Federal Government has announced it will establish a Royal Commission into the former government’s Home Insulation Scheme.

As reported in an earlier e-bulletin, the commission is one of the Coalition Government’s election promises.

Matthew Fuller, Rueben Barnes, Mitchell Sweeney and Marcus Wilson died while installing home insulation.

The terms of reference are yet to be released. However, the government says the commission will assess the former government’s handling of the scheme’s risk management and its responses to advice and warnings; and determine if the current government should change laws, practices, processes, procedures and systems in response to the commission’s findings.

The commission would also take into account the findings of coronial inquests and other inquiries into scheme.

The government said it had consulted the families of the deceased workers in developing the proposed terms of reference.

In late October, Greens Leader Christine Milne told the ABC’s Insiders program that the commission was purely political and if the Coalition was serious about fixing the safety issues it would have already taken up the recommendations of the coronial inquests.

Milne said the Greens would look at the commission’s terms of reference when they are available and consider the points of view of the deceased workers’ families.

The Royal Commission is due to report on or before 30 June 2014.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has introduced the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Bill 2013 to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commissioner (ABC Commissioner).

The former government abolished the ABC Commission and replaced it with the Office of the Fair Work Building Industry Inspectorate.

The Inspectorate will continue under the new name of the ABC Commission.

The CFMEU rejects the need to reinstate the ABC Commission and says more must be done to improve workers safety.

“[Workers] need the government to care and act on safety which is a constant concern. People are often working on jobs where safety laws are not observed,” CFMEU National Construction Secretary Dave Noonan said.

The government must also address sham contracting, tax evasion and lost wages and entitlements, he added.

The Bill and the accompanying Building and Construction Industry (Consequential and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 have been referred to a Senate Committee hearing, which is due to report by 2 December 2013.

For more details, visit the Attorney General, building legislation and CFMEU.

Published on 21 November 2013 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

South Australia has suspended three construction codes of practice in response to a review by the state’s Small Business Commissioner.

The South Australian Minister for Industrial Relations, John Rau suspended the Construction Work Code of Practice; Preventing Falls in Housing Construction Code of Practice; and Safe Design of Structures Code of Practice.

The Small Business Commissioner Mike Sinkunas reviewed the codes in consultation with the Housing Industry Association (HIA) and the Master Builders South Australia.

Sinkunas concluded that an unintended consequence of the existing codes would be non-compliance by many in the industry.

“Many [participants] do not have the time, skills, or even inclination to read and digest the voluminous amounts of information and associated paperwork that is seen as ambiguous, confusing and not really relevant to their situation,” his report said.

“The implementation of the current Codes will lead to increased costs to the industry and these costs would be passed onto consumers.”

According to Rau “it is prudent that the Government suspend the Codes of Practice and consult with the building industry, unions and the Small Business Commissioner in order to improve these Codes”.

Rau said during the suspension that all businesses still had a duty to provide safe workplaces.

However, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) is concerned that cost rather than safety is driving the suspension and review of the codes.

The CFMEU’s South Australia State Secretary of Construction Aaron Cartledge told Adelaide’s Radio Digital the union hadn’t been consulted about the review and if the codes were watered down this would increase safety risks.

He also rejected claims that the codes were too costly to implement.

The HIA sees it differently, saying the “decision is a victory for commonsense bearing in mind that the Codes were designed without consideration of their impact upon the residential industry.

“It is important that unnecessary impediments to this part of the industry are withdrawn given that we are coming off three years of significant reduction in activity in South Australia with respect to new home starts.”

For more details, visit the Minister, Small Business Commissioner, CFMEU and HIA.

Published on 21 November 2013 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

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