Delays in draft OHS harmonisation documents

Further to the blog post on the prioritization of draft Codes and Regulations by Safe Work Australia, SafetyAtWorkBlog has been advised that the release of these documents will no longer be around 10 November 2010.  A December 2010 release is now being planned for.

Whether the Public Comment period will similarly be put back has yet to be decided.

Some involved with the harmonisation negotiations believe a January 2011 release is more likely.

Part of the reason for the delay is believed to the fallout from the dialogue between the New South Wales and Federal Governments that has been reported on extensively.

The challenge for the release of documents is whether to delay until the draft documents are the best they can be, particularly in relation to the Regulations which are considered crucial to the OHS harmonisation program, or to release incomplete drafts for the sake of meeting the reform schedule.

Kevin Jones

Categories consultation, Gillard, guidance, law, OHS, politics, safety, UncategorizedTags , ,

6 thoughts on “Delays in draft OHS harmonisation documents”

  1. If a \”Plan B\” was being considered I\’d suggest it\’s time for an objective examination of the real obstacles to pragmatic harmonisation. And that could come about through not trying to produce a huge swag of material, but by focusing on getting one package of reg and guidance material right.

    From my experience and perspective it\’s the nitty gritty of getting a reg right that is a common cause of inconsistency. One small but sufficiently pertinent example is the obligation to produce a hazard substances register. All jurisdictions have the obligation, but some require a summary of the risk control action used for the listed haz subs, some jurisdictions dont. I have a nationally based client and that wee difference means ya advice has to be tweaked to accommodate the difference. It also means obviously that for a national company that keeps national records the data base has to reflect those differences.

    For mine, it\’s these little differences in regs that can cause the most day-to-day grief.

    I\’d suggest the harmonisation project should be looking at taking one hazard area, ideally one that is known to have a reasonable number of inconsistencies between jurisdictions, and see if a universal \”fit\” can be produced for that.

    What is critical in that exercise is bringing to the development table a fundamental related set of imperatives: are the requirements reasonable, are the requirements able to be complied with, and can the requirements be enforced in a fair and reasonable way? In a nut-shell, will the regs work in a way regs are required and expected to work?

    You might read the above and have a WTF? moment. \”What ya talkin\’ about Finnie, of course these are fundamental things and of course these things would be taken into account!\” And my response is, well, sometimes those fundamental things don\’t seem to be taken into account in a national forum.

    From my experience key documents, intended as guides to enforcement instruments like a reg, can lose their way in the development process. And if that diversion is away from what is fair and reasonable in terms of practical enforcement you inevitably end up in a situation where an agency can only do what they can do to make changes to fit compliance and enforcement imperatives.

    I\’m not talking about refined degrees of emphasis here, I\’m talking about staying focussed on what any agency has to be acutely conscious of when putting a reg together: can the punter comply and can we enforce it? (There is always the issue of \”are we within our enabling powers\”, but I\’d suggest that when it comes to enabling powers for reg making stuff, the Oz jurisdictions are almost peas-in-a-pod.)

    The business of putting together the supporting material for potential national adoption must be a mongrel of a job, no doubt. But without the focus I\’ve mentioned I\’d suggest the project is on the path to \”hiding-to-nothing\”.

  2. David Moody of WorkSafe gave a presentation on harmonisation at the Melbourne Convention Centre yesterday. He said that the consultation documents (Regs. Codes) was commencing mid December and would last for 4 months. Watch the (Safework Australia) space I guess!

  3. Kevin, in your opinion, are we likely to see the \”go live\” date of harmonisation pushed back, or a more extended overlap period for existing and harmonised laws??

    1. Brett

      I think the Federal Government locked itself into a political timeline on OHS law reform BUT there is a growing realisation in some sections for the Prime Minister to acknowledge that harmonisation is not going to work as intended and to start seriously looking at a Plan B (if they have one).
      Michael Tooma, in today\’s The Australian newspaper, is advocating a national OHS regime and listed the failed harmonisation processes of the past to support his argument.

      The feeling from many attendees at Victoria WorkSafe\’s Awards night last night was that the process will continue but that the proposed end result of all the State\’s \”playing well together\” won\’t eventuate. The questions that could be asked at that time is why saddle a fairly standard law reform/review process with unnecessary political baggage? Was harmonisation worth the attempt? Is the OHS world better off for having tried but failed?

      Kevin

  4. Maybe they need to have another 6 months, I would rather see that than have a pile of flawed nonsense to go through and invite more argument than necessary.

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