The Safety Institute of Australia is calling for a wider national conversation on workplace culture, to address what it believes are disarmingly common problems of harassment, bullying, and abuse in Australian workplaces across a range of industries.
SIA Chairman, Patrick Murphy, said thousands of Australian health and safety professionals were dealing with the psychological health of their workforces on a daily basis, and that too many organisational cultures allowed too much latitude to behaviours when it came to bullying, harassment, and abuse.
“The recent high-profile issues which have come up within the media are no surprise to our health and safety people. Regardless of the merits of individual cases, the reason they have struck a chord in the community is because they are recognisable for so many people. It would be a mistake to think that such events are isolated and highly unusual. They are disarmingly common in too many workplace environments.
SIA College of Fellows Chair, Dr Kelly Johnstone, said that because workers spend so much of their lives at work, more attention needed to be placed on the quality of that working environment. “It is not normal or acceptable for people to be treated this way, but too many people in the workplace have come to believe that these behaviours are normal and something they simply have to manage.”
Dr Johnstone wants Safe Work Australia to produce a new code of practice for the Management of Work-Related Psychosocial Health Risks which covers issues of bullying, harassment and abuse. Safe Work Australia produced a draft code in 2011, but it was scrapped in 2013 after then Federal Employment Minister, Eric Abetz, described it as “over-zealous” and as an example of “overregulation”.
However, Women in Safety & Health Network Chair, Alena Titterton, said codes of practice exist for hazards such as confined spaces, electrical work, noise, plant and equipment and working at heights – and that it was time psychological hazards got the same standing.
“It’s time we more openly addressed these other equally important issues that affect psychological health if we are going to successfully change this workplace culture issue. It’s not an easy conversation, but it’s one we have to have.”