On 20 May 2010, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation televised a story on the South Australian 7.30 program about the supposedly poor investigative performance of SafeWorkSA. The article was framed by a mother’s grief, the grief of Andrea Madeley over the loss of her son, Daniel.
The story was some weeks coming as the story’s production began around the time the ABC were filming at the Workers’ Memorial service in Adelaide a month ago. The story promised to be a hard-hitting criticism of the State’s OHS regulator but the latest Industrial Relations Minister, Patrick Conlon, handled himself well and what could have provided a provocative national context to the story, the harmonisation of OHS laws, dampened the impact.
Both Yossi Berger and I have written about the findings of Coroner Mark Johns on this blog. Yossi agrees that OHS regulators are almost all too slow to implement control measures to prevent recurrences of injuries and death, I thought the Coroner was poorly informed.
The lasting image of the 7.30 storywas the young boy talking at Adelaide’s memorial about his loss of a relative – the way he kept talking while he sobbed and cried.
All OHS regulators must improve their game in empowering employers and workers to prevent injury and death. Coronial criticisms are unlikely to affect changes in safety management by themselves. Crying boys are also unlikely to affect lasting change, but it is almost a certainty that the harmonisation of OHS laws will change very little.