Workplace wellness is expected to be the new buzzword at the inaugural WA Safety Conference, organised by Australian Exhibitions & Conferences (AEC). The programme shows much less optimistic issues like corporate manslaughter continue to loom large.
One of the keynote speakers, addressing the inaugural WA Safety Conference to be held in Perth from August 12 to 14, is UK barrister Gerard Forlin, who made his name defending manslaughter cases including the appeal that followed the 2007 Hatfield rail crash.
Still on dealing with the law, Partner of Deacons Lawyers, Maria Saraceni will overview how the federal Labor government’s proposed changes will impact on business, while Bernie Althofer of EGL I Assessments will discuss the impact on organisations if bullying is criminalised.
"Workplace bullying is a cancerous plague growing out of sight and out of mind, and spreading in epidemic proportions across the public and private sector," Althofer says.
"Bullying behaviours generally consist of actions that result in physical or psychological injuries to individuals. An analysis of criminal law suggests that ‘bullying behaviours’ are in fact assaults, and consequently, should be classified as official misconduct, misconduct or at least, breaches of discipline."
The conference’s three-day calendar also addresses the responsibilities of OSH managers, corporate safety cultures, safe design, the lessons from major incidents like the Beaconsfield mine disaster, and workplace wellness.
As employers grapple with skills shortages, conference speaker Catherine Jarman of Corporate Bodies International says it is inevitable they will become more involved in promoting healthier lifestyles – inside and outside working hours.
"We are living longer, but with sub-optimal health," she says. "We are remaining in the workforce until we are older to bridge gaps of pensions and skills shortages. There is no doubt that a reduction in lifestyle risk factors is advantageous to an individual's quality of life."
"The question remains, is this a personal responsibility, or the responsibility of the employer? Perhaps the answer is both. Research shows workplace wellness improves health and morale, reduces absenteeism, increases productivity and reduces staff turnover."
Mining, traditionally a tough, blokey industry, has already revealed its caring side. Colin Steer, HSE&T Superintendent of Downer EDI Mining and Vanessa Fowles, Director, Future Moves will take to the floor to explain how personalised exercises programs help heal miners' aching bodies.
"Workplaces are made up of many people all of different shapes, sizes and carrying different conditions impacting on their physical wellbeing," Colin Steer says.
"If you ask any employee you will probably find they are nursing or avoiding pain while they work. With this in mind, Downer EDI Mining commissioned Future Moves to commence their ‘move better, feel better’ programme involving a confidential assessment of each employee, reviewing previous history, current aches and pains and identifying biomechanical faults. Video footage was analysed by a physiotherapist who developed an exercise program to suit. Some people have had dramatic reductions in pain and improvements in their physical function."
The inaugural WA Safety Conference will be hosted by the Safety Institute of Australia in WA and sponsored by the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection, Government of Western Australia. It will run from August 12 to 14 at the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre concurrently with the WA Safety Show.