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06 Feb 2014

Should flexibility drive safety?

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Those managing WHS must take a more sophisticated approach to flexible work arrangements.  Increasingly, businesses are thinking of WHS and flexibility as having a synergistic relationship so as to better support WHS and flexibility outcomes.

The benefits of this are said to include reductions in sick leave and lost time injuries; increased job satisfaction, energy, creativity and capacity to handle stress; a greater degree of employee engagement; increased productivity; increased capacity to attract, retain and motivate high-performing and experienced employees; and being able to help employees manage their responsibilities outside of work.

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Published in National Safety magazine, June-July 2013.

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Australia must undertake a new body-sizing survey if designers are to meet their obligations under the model work health and safety laws, says a recent report.

According to the report ‘Sizing up Australia – the next step’, “… whilst there is a regulatory thrust to embed work health and safety into the design process, designers do not have available to them key data about the population for which they are designing.”

The report says the gap in the data “can only be filled by a well-constructed and well-executed anthropometric measurement survey of a representative sample of Australian people”.

Australia must develop the scientific parameters to conduct this survey, which could then be used as a national resource, the report adds.

As the cost of such a survey would be significant, the report suggests two user-pay models to fund it. “They combine the allocation of a set number of measurements that would be determined by general consensus between all stakeholders, regardless of their level of funding contribution, with a second and larger allocation of measurements that survey sponsors can determine,” the report says.

“The number of measures that a funding stakeholder could determine would be directly proportional to their level of contribution.”

A third funding model would involve the Australian Government funding the “basic survey and a consortium of partners concurrently [contributing] funding to the user applications”, the report adds.

For more details visit the report.

Published on 16 January 2014 in NSCA Safe-T-Bulletin.

The latest Mental Health Commission report card is calling for a new national strategy to reduce discrimination at work and elsewhere.

“As a country, we can’t afford the personal, community and productivity costs that too often accompany poor mental health,” said Professor Allan Fels, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission.

“As a society, and as individuals, we must stop blaming people for their mental illness. And we must find the courage to call out those who do.”

The commission is advocating for more targeted antidiscrimination initiatives beginning with those who come into frequent contact with people with mental health problems.

Beyondblue says more than three million Australians experience depression or anxiety, so it’s “quite likely” work colleagues and employers will know someone who is experiencing these illnesses.

However, many people don’t feel comfortable disclosing their mental health status. The Elephant in the Boardroom, a survey of more than 4000 people with depression and stress disorders found that 86 per cent of people living with mental illnesses were uncomfortable talking about them with their work colleagues.

“They are remaining silent because they fear disclosure will compromise their career prospects, and may exclude them from projects,” says Graeme Cowan, the survey’s author and Director of ICMI Work Health and Safety Solutions.

Some of Cowan’s key recommendations for change include teaching managers and team members to ask their colleagues and employees, ‘Are you OK?’; and managers understanding and using their employees work strengths every day.

Meanwhile, in early 2014, the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance, which was established by the Mental Health Commission, will release practical mental health resources for businesses.

This initiative stems from the commission’s previous 2012 report card, which included the importance of meaningful work.

For more details, visit the Commission’s 2013 and 2012 report cards and The Elephant in the Boardroom.

Published on 5 December 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.

Work is a source of stress for almost half of Australian workers, says a new Australian Psychological Society (APS) online survey.

The APS conducted the survey of 1548 people over two-and-a-half weeks from 18 July to 5 August 2013.

From this it identified a sub-sample of 999 Australian workers. Some 61 per cent were employed full-time, 30 per cent part-time and 9 per cent were employed under other arrangements.

The APS compared the results of this year’s survey with surveys it had conducted in 2011 and 2012.

Similar to previous years, in 2013 almost half of the respondents (47 per cent) rated work as a source of stress.

The survey also found that as workers got older concern about work as a source of stress decreased except for those aged between 46 and 52.

These workers “reported the same levels of concern about workplace as a source of stress (52 per cent) as the youngest group of working Australians (18- to 25-year-olds reporting 53 per cent)”, according to the survey.

Among other results, less than half of Australian workers said they “regularly received relevant feedback and recognition for their work”.

However, half said “their employer valued their contribution and cared about their wellbeing”.

For more details, see the APS for the full report.

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


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