John Darley speaks to SafetyAtWorkBlog

Independent Member of the South Australian Parliament, John Darley, provided SafetyAtWorkBlog with some background to the package of amendments he has for that State’s Work Health and Safety laws currently before Parliament.

Darley acknowledged that he delayed the Work Health and Safety Bill since December 2011 and admitted that the Bill looked like common sense but his approach is to jump ahead an consider how the Bill would look as an Act and determine its social impact.  The opposition parties in South Australia believed the Bill was so bad that it should have been defeated before it proceeded to the committee stage but Darley knew that could imply that he was not interested in workplace safety.  Darley believes that the reassessment of the WHS Bill over such a long time indicates his commitment to the safety of workers.

Darley said that union right-of-entry was not an issue of concern in December 2011 but he came to see the significance of the  issue after delegations and meetings with people affected by workplace deaths but who were also very dissatisfied with the operations of the OHS regulator, SafeWorkSA.  The union OHS representatives offered an alternate but Darley felt that union access needed additional accountability so he has introduced a system where unions may enter workplaces only after directly contacting SafeWorkSA’s Executive Director and informing of any site visits.  All visits are to be kept in a register and that register will be regularly presented to Parliament and made publicly available.

In this way SafeWorkSA has the opportunity to accompany the union OHS representative on the site visit.  Should an inspector attend, the inspector takes the lead in the visit.  If an inspector does not attend and an OHS contravention is found, the union writes a report and sends this through SafeWorkSA’s Executive Director.

This process seems enormously cumbersome but reflects the strong distrust of SafeWorkSA felt by some sections of the community. A level of concern that has led to a Parliamentary Inquiry into the organisation’s operations.  Submissions and presentations have been made to the inquiry but no submissions have been officially released.

On the matter of clarifying who has “control” over a workplace for OHS purposes, Darley said that he resisted those who felt that “direct control” was needed to provide certainty on OHS responsibilities.  His amendment package includes the term “influence and control” for the WHS laws.

Darley’s actions on the impacts of Codes of Practice for small business have been addressed elsewhere and it will be interesting to see how such a consultative process will work.  He said that his amendments will only apply to new Codes of Practice and have addressed the pressure from some for a cost benefit analysis of the Codes.

Coincidentally in the Federal Government’s Senate Estimates Committee hearing on 17 October 2012, a cost-benefit of Codes of Practice was put to Rex Hoy of Safe Work Australia and Senator Jacinta Collins by Senator Edwards.  According to the draft transcript (try this link but not sure if it works):

“Senator EDWARDS: … Just what cost is this process to the country, all these processes? How many codes of practice do you have currently under review?

Ms Collins: By the time we have completed we will have 40 codes of practice. We still have a number to go through our approval processes that we have published 23 codes.

Senator EDWARDS: Do you have any idea what the budget is for these 40 codes of practice?

Mr Hoy: No, we do not specifically have that detail and it would be very difficult to estimate. I can tell you what the budget for Safe Work Australia is but we would not go down to the level of determining that sort of detail.” (Page 42)

Surely this is more than a coincidence from lobbying an Independent MP in one State to raising the issue in a Senate hearing.  There seems to be a strategy here, perhaps a Plan B due to the holes in the cost estimates provided to the Victorian Government by PricewaterhouseCoopers and quoted by Conservative politicians and organisations.  If the cost of introducing the laws nationally are “affordable” perhaps by questioning the cost to taxpayers of the development of specific Codes of Practice will work.

Of note in the Senate Estimates was that the fatigue management code was specifically mentioned even though there has been no public movement on the draft since December 2011.  Psychosocial hazards such as fatigue, bullying and mental are relatively new in Australia and are difficult to understand for health and safety professionals so politicians are likely to struggle.  Prepare to hear more ridicule of these Codes in the future.

John  Darley advised that his amendment package may not appear in the SA Parliament for a couple of weeks yet.  An introduction date of 1 January 2013 remains achievable but Darley insists of a twelve month transition period.  Others speculate of a potential start date of 1 July 2013, but Darley says this would shorten any transition back to six months.

Kevin Jones

reservoir, victoria, australia

6 thoughts on “John Darley speaks to SafetyAtWorkBlog”

  1. I worked for WorkPlace Services (Worksafe SA) years ago. They never provided any decent OHS training for bosses or staff and did not comply with their own laws for safety procedures as far as I was concerned.

    Darnleys right a lot of people are very \”dissatisfied with the operations of the OHS regulator\” and some of the decisions made of the inspectors and if you can\’t get it right in your own workplace you can\’t make the rules for others.

  2. My hope for John Darley MLC is that he enjoys his new career as a gymnast.
    For many many months John Darley MLC has said that he would not support this legislation and he gave endless reasons as to why he would not support the legislation.
    Now Parliament Houses newest gymnast has done a wonderful backflip and voted for the very same legislation he said was not in the best interest of South Australia.
    No wonder we don\’t trust politicans!

  3. I am not and never have been a supporter of this legislation and I admit I have been decried because of my stance.

    The reason for my stand is that we already have OHS legislation that is ignored on a day to day basis, we already have breaches of safety, we already have ignorance of the current legislation.
    To bring in over-riding legislation will mean nothing to those who do not care a single jot about the health and safety of their workforce now.
    For those who will be caught under the new legislation (given that there will be no more inspectors on the ground I doubt that there will be an increase) the only thing that will happen is there will be a larger fine.

    No one has been able to show me any where in any of the pages where the new legislation will deliver safer work places for anyone.

    To prove my point re ignorance.
    A young friend of mine opened a small take away outlet just under 6 months back.
    She had been nominated for a new business award and phoned me for some help in getting the right posters to display in the kitchen area about washing hands etc.
    I asked my friend how many people she now had working for her, the response was she has 4 part-time and 1 full time staff member, the rest was shared between herself and her mum.
    I then asked had she registered with WorkCover.
    The look on her face was one of shock.

    This young business lady had not known that she needed to register with WorkCover, so can anyone tell me who is it that is going to explain the complexity of this new legislation.

  4. \’Darley acknowledged that he delayed the Work Health and Safety Bill since December 2011 and admitted that the Bill looked like common sense\’

    Love to know how he defines \’common sense\’ don\’t seem to be able to find that definition in any dictionary I\’ve read!

    Keep watering down the legislation and you\’ll be right back to where we are now, with the right legal team you can drive a truck through it. It appears the people who should be acting on our behalf e.g. elected members, have dismissed the intent of this and previous legislation – that\’s to have the right to return home after a days work, without injury or illness. If anyone calls into question their \’rights\’ and \’entitlements\’ as elected members, all hell breaks loose, that \’common sense\’ argument doesn\’t seem to apply then!

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