Australia: women; work and menopause

Menopause affects women differently and for some it can create issues in the workplace. Yet despite the fact that more than one million women in Australia are currently experiencing the menopausal transition in workplaces, it has been a topic largely enveloped in silence. A team of six mainly Australian researchers has spent six years tackling the issue. The result is the Menopause Information Pack for Organizations (MIPO) - a recently released suite of free resources for workplaces to help support women through this life stage.

The researchers began working towards a solution that focused on what workplace support menopausal women needed, and how managers and workplaces could best provide it. Their research included talking to over 2000 women through surveys, interviews and focus groups.

Read more: A workplace for change (pp20-21, Jean Hailes Magazine, Vol 2, 2019 [pdf]); the Menopause Information Pack for Organizations website; Prof Kathleen Raich, How to make work menopause-friendly: don’t think of it as a problem to be managed, The Conversation

China: Rhinestone workers dying of silica dust disease

Workers making the rhinestones often found in jewellery, fashion and decorative items are developing the deadly lung disease silicosis, according to a new study. Researchers diagnosed 98 cases of silicosis between the years 2006-2012 in a single crystal rhinestone factory in Guangdong province, China. Crystal rhinestones are imitation gemstones with quartz sand the main raw material. Workers in the rhinestone manufacturing industry are exposed to crystalline silica dust when cutting, grinding, polishing and buffing the artificial crystals. Inhaling crystalline silica dust can lead to the deadly lung-scarring disease silicosis, lung cancer and autoimmune conditions.

The authors, publishing their findings in the journal Occupational Medicine, note that the rhinestone workers developing silicosis were on average first exposed to silica dust at age 22 and were diagnosed at 33 years old. Most of the workers who developed the disease were drilling holes into rhinestones. Lead author Dr Cuiju Wen called for health screening for the workers, adding: “The rhinestones manufacturing industry is labour intensive, most of the activities within the factory involved in this study involve manual work. The first step in protecting these workers is to change the manufacturing processes to automatic methods, this will decrease the time that workers are exposed to silica dust. Appropriate ventilation should be installed, workers would benefit from using wet methods and they should be provided with personal respiratory protective equipment.”

Demand for rhinestones is high and may be fuelled in part by the renewed popularity of ballroom dancing. The company responsible for making the costumes for the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing programme estimates that 3.5 million rhinestones are used per series.
Read more: C Wen et al. Silicosis in rhinestone-manufacturing workers in South China, [Full article] Occupational Medicine, kqz107, published first online 22 August 2019. Source: Risks 912

OECD report: Older employees face employer discrimination

According to a new OECD (Intergovernmental Economic Organisation) report, the negative attitude of Australian businesses towards older workers is a major obstacle in achieving longer working lives. The Working Better with Age report notes that more than 10 per cent of Australian managers admit taking age into account when offering employees training opportunities, and that there are a range of "procedural barriers" preventing workers bringing anti-discrimination actions before courts.

In a chapter on encouraging employers to hire older workers, the OECD notes that "27 per cent of Australian employees aged 49 and above reported having actually experienced age discrimination in the workplace". It also found that "11 per cent of managers reported taking age into account when deciding whether to offer employees access to training opportunities".

The OECD recommends governments adopt three key measures to cultivate longer working lives: ensuring that the pension system rewards work at an older age; encouraging employers to retain and hire older workers; and finally promoting the employability of workers at all stages throughout their working lives. It also suggests that a good way to promote age-management action in companies "is to include it as a collective bargaining issue".

Despite the fact that many of us are living longer and are healthier for longer, the report notes that the effective age at which older people exit the labour market is lower today than it was 30 years ago. "This is explained by a combination of poor incentives to continue working at an older age, employer reluctance to hire and retain older workers, and underinvestment in employability throughout working lives," the report says.
Read more: Working Better with Age, Ageing and Employment Policies [pdf], OECD (2019), OECD Publishing, Paris, Source: Workplace Express

Article on High PTSD in those bereaved by workplace fatalities now available

In last week's SafetyNet there was an item on new Australian research which confirmed high rates of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depressive and grieving disorders in those bereaved by workplace fatalities. The article is now available, in full, for anyone interested in reading it.

Matthews, L; Quinlan, M: & Bohl, P. Prevalence and correlates of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and prolonged grief disorder in families bereaved by a traumatic workplace death [Full article]. Front. Psychiatry | doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00609

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