Victorian Government may be a hurdle in OHS harmonisation

SafetyAtWorkBlog has been receiving several requests for information about the introduction of the model Work Health and Safety Bill into the Victorian Parliament.  As the new laws have been “modelled” on the recent Victorian Act, some thought the introduction of the Bill could be undertaken early.  Others, for the same “modelling” reason, argued for delay.  On 12 September 2011, Victoria’s Assistant Treasurer, Gordon Rich-Phillips, has spoken in favour of delaying the date for enacting the laws past 1 January 2012.

Rich-Phillips is basing his position of the continuing lack of a regulatory impact statement (RIS) for the laws, a delay that has also caused concerns on various OHS discussion forums over recent months.  His demand to know the “costs and benefits” of the laws is not unreasonable however the RIS is only about the impact of the regulations and not the harmonisation process as a whole.

The 12 September 2011 article in the Australian Financial Review (AFR) (not available in full online) quotes several employer groups expressing concerns, although the comments from the Australian Chamber of Commerce & industry are less strident than in the past.  Mark Goodsell of the Australian Industry Group makes the valid point, however, that these industry bodies have been participants in the harmonised process for the beginning in 2008.  Goodsell is quoted as saying:

“If Victoria has concerns, then try to deal with them through the process rather than walk away.  If any state is having second thoughts we would implore them to stay at the table.”

The AFR article says that the RIS will be released “in the coming days”.  SafetyAtWorkBlog has been told that the RIS was signed on 9 September 2011.

Although Rich-Phillips is principally concerned about the RIS, there is growing concern in the OHS profession about the lack of Codes of Practice that should have been released by now in order to obtain public comment.  The unacceptable delay for these documents is increasing the perception that the new laws have been designed for lawyers and not for the practical improvement of safety in workplaces.

Kevin Jones

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