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Is your mine site bully ready?

With the Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) recent bullying awareness program and the federal anti-bullying regime under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act), mine site operators need to be focusing on preventing bullying behaviour.

The consequences of bullying are well known, with effects on individuals (such as stress and anxiety, depression, post-traumatic disorders) and on business (such as deceased productivity, absenteeism and reputational damage). There are a range of behaviours which may constitute bullying including abusive language, regular practical jokes, unreasonably overloading someone with work and setting impossible or constantly changing deadlines. Bullying behaviour is usually repeated and creates a risk to health and safety.

In September 2013, the DMP launched a bullying awareness program aimed at 60 mine sites in Western Australia, which was reportedly prompted by a significant increase in bullying reports. The DMP will consider mine sites’ systems, policies and procedures in respect of the prevention of bullying and has developed a code of practice, guideline and an anti-bullying checklist to assist both inspectors and workers. The checklist includes sections requiring the identification of certain documents (such as bullying policies, policies for dealing with complaints and procedures for ensuing complainants are not victimised) as well as a section as to how the relevant polices are applied.

Workers may make complaints in respect of bullying to the DMP who may investigate the complaints to ascertain whether the employer has met its obligations under the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 (WA). The DMP has the power to take enforcement action in respect of bullying, including by the issuing of improvement notices.

The DMP’s spotlight on bullying coincides with the new federal anti-bullying framework, commencing on 1 January 2014. From that date, the Fair Work Commission will have jurisdiction to deal with bullying complaints made by a worker and may any make orders it considers appropriate to stop the bullying (but not pecuniary payments) if it is satisfied that the worker has been bullied at work and there is a risk that the bullying will continue. A ‘worker’ includes any person who performs work and includes employees, contactors, subcontractors, apprentices and trainees who work for a constitutionally covered business (but not a member of the Defence Force).

With the current focus on bullying, mine site operators must take particular care to ensure that their policies and procedures are up to date and are effective in identifying, preventing and managing bullying and that workers are appropriately trained.

We can assist you to identify if you need to do more by conducting a health check of your bullying management procedures and processes.

 

Photo credit: Pixabay.com

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