Australian Standards and OHS harmonisation

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“.

Kevin Jones

3 thoughts on “Australian Standards and OHS harmonisation”

  1. Col

    A couple of hours ago I was in a staff meeting with a regional CEO of an international company. He revealed more financial data about the status of the company to his staff than I have ever seen before. His reason was because he was talking to \”adults\”. He acknowledged that his staff were intelligent and were as important to the success of the company as anyone other staff member.

    Some would call that leadership but it was certainly innovative. The transparency (and honesty) verified his strategy of moving the company to focus more on customers and for all staff to share the values. It was a bit business-speak as these things often are (at least he didn\’t have 72 overhead slides) but he was beginning the cultural change.

    Good CEOs are rare (and I think I remember the CEOs you are referring to.) If they are willing to support staff-generated initatives and be forthright when required, it\’s a good start.

  2. This was very good to read. There was a bit of evidence around that Victoria\’s initiative in 1995 to put technical standards in a logical and more practical place in the whole compliance regime was starting to \”stick\”. This clear endorsement of the concept by the 3 big-hitter stakeholders is a happy thing.

    I just finished reading your excellent interview with Andrew Hopkins from back in 2000, Kevin. There are some correlations between this topic of use of tech standards and what Hopkins has said about management commitment and focus. It applies to the 1995 initiative.

    We all love to slag off the boss. And a good amount of time they warrant it. But it needs to be said that this idea of how to use tech standards in a smart way wouldn\’t have happened without 2 CEOs of the Victorian Occupational Health and Safety Authority (as it was back then) showing the sort of guts rarely seen amongst government bosses. The first CEO gave the proposal the thumbs up and the second took up the banner and ran it through the torrent of heavy fire that rained down on it from all around Oz. And it also needs to be said that the key stakeholders in Vic did their bit too.

    It was obvious that the employer and union side of the equation were prepared to give it a crack, to see if it was an idea that, although looking logical on paper, was going to deliver good practical results.

    I\’m not saying all this to trumpet about Victoria. What really matters is that it\’s an example of what we keep hammering the punters about and too rarely see the OHS-World doing: thinking hard about innovation, encouraging big ideas and running hard and confidently with the best of them.

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