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Which industries have the highest rates of work-related harassment and bullying claims?

Which industries have the highest rates of work-related harassment and bullying claims?

On February 28, 2020, Safe Work Australia released the 2019 ‘Psychosocial health and safety and bullying in Australian workplaces’ annual statement.

Psychosocial health is the physical, mental and social state of a person. The nationally accepted definition of workplace bullying is the ‘repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety’ (Fair Work Act 2009, s.789FD(1).

Workplace bullying occurs when:

  • An individual or group of individuals repeatedly behaves unreasonably towards a worker or a group of workers at work,
    and
  • The behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

The following behaviours could also be considered as bullying, based on cases heard:

  • Aggressive and intimidating conduct.
  • Belittling or humiliating comments.
  • Victimisation.
  • Spreading malicious rumours.
  • Practical jokes or initiation.
  • Exclusion from work-related events, and
  • Unreasonable work expectations.

Reasonable management action conducted in a reasonable manner does not constitute workplace bullying.

This report presents the statistics of workers compensation claims when the work-related injury or disease resulted from the person experiencing mental stress or being exposed to mentally stressful situations. The report excludes assault cases where the physical injuries were considered more serious than the mental stress involved in the incident.

The mental stress claims data includes a sub-category for work-related harassment and/or workplace bullying. This sub-category is given to claims when the employee was a victim of:

  • Repetitive assault and/or threatened assault by a work colleague or colleagues, or
  • Repetitive verbal harassment, threats, and abuse from a work colleague or colleagues.

This is the fifth annual national statement issued by Safe Work Australia.

Note: Data presented for mental stress are national figures but data for subcategories of mental stress exclude Victoria because Victorian data is not coded to that level of detail.

Key statistics in the report

 

Rates for both mental stress and harassment and/or bullying claims have risen over the last two years but they are less than the peak in 2010–11. Jurisdictional legislation is highly likely to have influenced the scope of claims involving mental stress over the reporting period.
 

Figure 1. Number, time lost, direct cost, frequency rate and incidence rate for mental stress claims, 2016–17

*Victoria only provides data on the top-level category of mental stress claims, so is included in the total but not the breakdown of sub‑categories. As a result, figures for the total mental stress claims may not equal the sum of columns.

**The Other harassment sub-category includes victims of sexual or racial harassment by a person or persons including work colleague/s.

Notes:

  1. The mechanism of incident classification identifies the overall action, exposure or event that best describes the circumstances that resulted in the most serious injury or disease.
  2. In previous statements, the amount of median compensation paid were calculated after excluding ‘zero dollar’ claims. In this report, all serious claims (including ‘zero dollar’ claims) have been included in calculations.

 

 Claims for harassment and/or bullying made by female employees were more than twice as high as the rate of these claims made by males over the three years 2015–16 to 2017–18 combined. Similarly, the rates for claims made by females relating to work pressure and exposure to workplace or occupational violence were more than twice that of similar claims made by males.

 

Figure 2. Frequency rates by sex and mental stress sub-category, 2015–16 to 2017–18p combined

 

Note: Data presented for mental stress are national figures but data for subcategories of mental stress exclude Victoria because its data are not coded to that level of detail.


 Occupations with a high risk of exposure to work-related harassment and/or workplace bullying include:

  • Other miscellaneous and administrative workers*(includes coding clerks, production assistants, proof readers, radio dispatchers & examination supervisors.
  • Other clerical and office support workers group** includes classified advertising clerks, meter readers & parking inspectors.
  • Other miscellaneous labourers.

Figure 3. Top 10 occupations with the highest frequency rates of work-related harassment and/or bullying, 2015–16 to 2017–18 combined.

*** Police in Western Australian are covered by a separate workers’ compensation scheme and not included in the data.

Notes:

  1. Industries are limited to those associated with more than 50 claims.
  2. Data presented for mental stress are national figures but data for subcategories of mental stress exclude Victoria because its data are not coded to that level of detail.

Industry groups with high rates of claims involving work-related harassment and/or workplace bullying include Public order and safety services; Civic, Professional and other interest group services; and Residential care services.

 

4. Top 10 industry groups with the highest frequency rates of work-related harassment and/or bullying, 2015–16 to 2017–18 combined

 

* Police in Western Australian are covered by a separate workers’ compensation scheme and not included in the data.

Notes:

  1. Industries are limited to those associated with more than 50 claims.
  2. Data presented for mental stress are national figures but data for subcategories of mental stress exclude Victoria because its data are not coded to that level of detail.

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Want to elevate your leadership capacity?

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Workplace to support domestic violence survivors with additional leave

Workplace to support domestic violence survivors with additional leave

In a landmark decision 3 weeks ago, the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission decided to provide five days’ unpaid leave per annum to all employees (including casuals) experiencing family and domestic violence  which is defined as violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by people who are, or have been in an intimate relationship.

Whilst the final model will be released 1 May, it does signify a significant change in Australian employment awards.  In their ruling, the Full Bench introduced this change by saying:

  • Almost 2.2 million Australian women have experienced family or domestic violence, or 1in 4
  • Domestic and intimate partner homicides represent the highest proportion of any category of homicides in Australia.
  • At least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner.
  • Family and domestic violence is the leading contributor to death, disability and ill-health among Australian women aged between 15 and 44.
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Fair Work also acknowledged such violence not only affects those who suffer it, but the children who are exposed to it, extended families, friends and work colleagues.  The commission also acknowledged that while men can, and do, experience family and domestic violence, such violence is a phenomenon that disproportionately affects women. This leave will be open to all.

Whilst the final model will be released on 1 May, in addition to updating company policies and informing all your Managers, we see this as an opportunity to further highlight this issue through education.   It is important to remove any stigma regarding domestic violence, the causes and impact, and importantly inform staff as to the support available through this significant change.

We encourage Work Health and Safety and Learning and Development departments to align this change to an education campaign to continue to raise the profile of this serious issue and help reduce those alarming statistics.

For more information on the ruling, click here.

SOURCE

Summary: https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/sites/awardsmodernfouryr/2018fwcfb1691-summary.pdf

Full Decision: https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/decisionssigned/html/2018fwcfb1691.htm#P668_52257

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This report provides a high‑level summary of the reform journey in Australia’s mental health and suicide prevention systems since the National Mental Health Commission (the Commission) presented Contributing Lives, Thriving Communities – Report of the National Review of Mental Health Programmes and Services2 (the Review) to the Australian Government at the end of 2014.

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Part 2 provides more detail about some of the issues in monitoring and reporting mental health and suicide prevention, and the Commission’s ongoing role and plans for further work in this area throughout 2017. This is supported by a snapshot of currently available data for selected indicators of mental health consumer and carer outcomes in Appendix A.

Part 3 sets out where our work the Commission be taking us during the implementation stage of the reforms.

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Why we need a new science of safety

Why we need a new science of safety

Philip Thomas, University of Bristol

 

It is often said that our approach to health and safety has gone mad. But the truth is that it needs to go scientific. Managing risk is ultimately linked to questions of engineering and economics. Can something be made safer? How much will that safety cost? Is it worth that cost?

Decisions under uncertainty can be explained using utility, a concept introduced by Swiss mathematician Daniel Bernoulli 300 years ago, to measure the amount of reward received by an individual. But the element of risk will still be there. And where there is risk, there is risk aversion.

Risk aversion itself is a complex phenomenon, as illustrated by psychologist John W. Atkinson’s 1950s experiment, in which five-year-old children played a game of throwing wooden hoops around pegs, with rewards based on successful throws and the varying distances the children chose to stand from the pegs.

The risk-confident stood a challenging but realistic distance away, but the risk averse children fell into two camps. Either they stood so close to the peg that success was almost guaranteed or, more perplexingly, positioned themselves so far away that failure was almost certain. Thus some risk averse children were choosing to increase, not decrease, their chance of failure.

So clearly high aversion to risk can induce some strange effects. These might be unsafe in the real world, as testified by author Robert Kelsey, who said that during his time as a City trader, “bad fear” in the financial world led to either “paralysis… or nonsensical leaps”. Utility theory predicts a similar effect, akin to panic, in a large organisation if the decision maker’s aversion to risk gets too high. At some point it is not possible to distinguish the benefits of implementing a protection system from those of doing nothing at all.

So when it comes to human lives, how much money should we spend on making them safe? Some people prefer not to think about the question, but those responsible for industrial safety or health services do not have that luxury. They have to ask themselves the question: what benefit is conferred when a safety measure “saves” a person’s life?

The answer is that the saved person is simply left to pursue their life as normal, so the actual benefit is the restoration of that person’s future existence. Since we cannot know how long any particular person is going to live, we do the next best thing and use measured historical averages, as published annually by the Office of National Statistics. The gain in life expectancy that the safety measure brings about can be weighed against the cost of that safety measure using the Judgement value, which mediates the balance using risk-aversion.

The Judgement (J) value is the ratio of the actual expenditure to the maximum reasonable expenditure. A J-value of two suggests that twice as much is being spent as is reasonably justified, while a J-value of 0.5 implies that safety spend could be doubled and still be acceptable. It is a ratio that throws some past safety decisions into sharp relief.

For example, a few years ago energy firm BNFL authorised a nuclear clean-up plant with a J-value of over 100, while at roughly the same time the medical quango NICE was asked to review the economic case for three breast cancer drugs found to have J-values of less than 0.05.

Risky business. Shutterstock

The Government of the time seemed happy to sanction spending on a plant that might just prevent a cancer, but wanted to think long and hard about helping many women actually suffering from the disease. A new and objective science of safety is clearly needed to provide the level playing field that has so far proved elusive.

Putting a price on life

Current safety methods are based on the “value of a prevented fatality” or VPF. It is the maximum amount of money considered reasonable to pay for a safety measure that will reduce by one the expected number of preventable premature deaths in a large population. In 2010, that value was calculated at £1.65m.

This figure simplistically applies equally to a 20-year-old and a 90-year-old, and is in widespread use in the road, rail, nuclear and chemical industries. Some (myself included) argue that the method used to reach this figure is fundamentally flawed.

In the modern industrial world, however, we are all exposed to dangers at work and at home, on the move and at rest. We need to feel safe, and this comes at a cost. The problems and confusions associated with current methods reinforce the urgent need to develop a new science of safety. Not to do so would be too much of a risk.The Conversation


Philip Thomas, Professor of Risk Management, University of Bristol

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.