This morning in Melbourne, WorkSafe Victoria conducted a three-hour seminar on the harmonisation of Australia’s OHS laws. The speakers and panelists were John Merritt of WorkSafe, Tracey Browne of the Australian Industry Group and Cathy Butcher of the Victorian Trades Hall. Tripartism at its best.
The large auditorium was filled with hundreds of attendees, very few were the familiar faces of the OHS professionals who can often dominate such events.
A question was asked to the panel about the application of the Australian Standard for Plant. The question was, basically, will the Australian Standards be referred to within the upcoming OHS regulations? The panel unanimously said no.
This was the clearest indication yet that the rumour about Australian Standards not being given legislative legitimacy through legislation is correct. Tracey Browne however provided the rationale. She said
“The important thing is that as soon as we incorporate an Australian Standard in a regulation, we create a whole different legislative status of something that was never designed to be a safety regulation….
This doesn’t change the fact, though, that it is the “state of knowledge” and when you look at what you are doing in relation to what is reasonably practicable, you need to take into account all the things you know or ought to know. So if you are [for instance] bringing plant into Australia, and that is your business, then you need to know what the Australian Standards are and make sure that’s part of your consideration.”
Standards Australia is undergoing a considerable rethink due to a big loss of funds and in response to the changing regulatory structure in all sorts of industry and financial sectors. The challenge is acknowledged by the CEO of Standards Australia, John Tucker ,when he discusses a “new way of operating“.