Interesting new appointment at South Australia’s Master Builders

Modern workers rarely stay in jobs longer than six or seven years because they choose to move on or are working on projects that have a short lifespan. Sometimes opportunities arise that can steer people in unpredictable directions, sometimes to positions of influence.  One example of this type of journey could be Ian Markos.

One newspaper recently wrote:

“The recently appointed director of policy for the SA branch of the MBA, Ian Markos, said a “nanny state” approach was stifling job creation. “There’s a raft of laws and regulations. You’ve got employment laws, you’ve got taxation laws, you’ve got environmental laws, you’ve got work health and safety laws, local council regulations. We’re saying enough is enough,” he said.”

Criticism of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws is not surprising from the Master Builders Association but Ian Markos was with South Australia’s OHS regulator, SafeWorkSA, for many years (with a once-only appearance on Gardening Australia) as the Chief Officer, Compliance, Advisory, Legal and Investigations.

According to a media release on 28 January 2014, the MBA states that

“Businesses are being asked for seven-page risk assessments to use a silicon gun, a  “hierarchy of controls” for a small brick wall, and are spending 21 hours on a six-hour job because of duplicated paperwork – these are the true costs of red tape in a nanny state…”

It seems that the message about the bloated operation of Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) in the construction industry has gained an advocate.  According to one website Markos has said

“A lot of our members are telling us they haven’t got the time to look at what the real safety issues are because they’re filling out form after form, reading documents, preparing 50-page safe work method statements for a simple task…”

South Australia’s MBA created a new position, Policy Director, for Ian Markos, even though the MBA has long held a policy role, so they must value Markos highly. The media release, with Markos’ support, discusses OHS red tape as an impediment to job creation and as South Australia is moving quickly towards an election, job creation (particularly with the impending departure of General Motors Holden) is a vital policy stance.  

Some OHS paperwork is time consuming but may still be important and  whether it impedes the creation of jobs to the extent implied by the MBA is debatable.  The reduction of red tape seems more likely to improve a company’s productivity and profitability than create additional jobs but this is an election year.  And Markos’ statement above about SWMS seems to confuse the issue. Markos may need to clearly detail the links between the OHS red tape examples mentioned in the MBA media release above and how this has affected the creation of jobs because the direct economic links are not obvious.

In the context of OHS, it will be fascinating to watch how Markos brings his experience to bear on the MBA’s established policies, whether the policies will shift or change or just become louder.  One would have to think that Markos is now very well placed to identify OHS red tape and lobby government for change but one could also argue that during his time in SafeWorkSA Markos was in a position to reduce red tape from within the organisation.

How one’s career develops, changes and diverts is intriguing.  Ian Markos has travelled through the OHS regulatory ranks to an executive position with a prominent industry association. (There are rumours that he will be appointed to SafeWorkSA’s Advisory Council)  He is now well-placed to affect the OHS practices of the construction industry in South Australia, and government policy, and he can affect these from a position of authority due to his experience. The statements from, and actions by, the MBA in South Australia could be fascinating.

Kevin Jones

Categories business, construction, economics, executives, government, law, OHS, politics, safety, SafeWork, UncategorizedTags ,

11 thoughts on “Interesting new appointment at South Australia’s Master Builders”

  1. The latest rumour circulating around the Keswick office of SafeWork SA is that current exective director Bryan Russell will be replaced by Ian Markos by incoming industrial relations minster Iain Evans after March 15.

  2. Having worked in this industry for over 25 years I can see where Mr Markos is going. In OHS we stated off with the simple \”Risk Assessment\” that I believe is a good tool used when used correctly, it has grown in into a monster that is now called a \”SWMS\”. Rather than create an encyclopedia of risk documentation cynically known as \”backside covering\” to cover all contingencies, lets use all our hazard management tools. The risk assessment and control tool is one of a suit of tools applied in OHS managment. One of those tools that appears to be manifestly lacking is, \”adequate supervision\”. So instead of the encyclopedia of paper work that taxes resources lets\’ find ways to improve supervision of workers. this will be a more cost effective way of improving workplace safety. Good on you Ian for making a statement about bringing some rational debate about OHS to the table.

    1. Just a shame the same comments were not made from within the agency of DPC when Ian was previously employed.

      The skill to see through superficiality and presence to not bow to pressure for silence are other critically important tools for the serious OHS professional. Particularly regulators.

      But then again the outspoken are oft considered fools.

  3. It’s only more politics and nonsense (AKA policy) to get in the way of stopping people being maimed or dying at work under the inconvenience of too much paperwork brought about by over zealous nincompoops that really don’t understand much about safety but have their “certificate” or position description that makes them an “expert”.
    The reality is the biggest ninnies seen to date in South Australian safety have actually come from SafeWorkSA.
    • The “confined space expert” inspector who didn’t know which Australian standards applied to confined spaces,
    • the “White Card expert” inspector that had NEVER actually been to a White Card course,
    • the “hygienist” inspector who classifed a two kilometre long factory as “one air mass” but didn’t “give a damn” about neighbours 300 metres away,
    • the “asbestos” inspector that advised a public forum it was OK to wash disposable repirators in a bucket of water for reuse in asbestos removal,
    • and so many more incidents way too numerous to detail here…
    The con that is current safety can ONLY stop if we have prescriptive legislation properly administered.
    Only a robust set of laws, properly administered by a sizable number of conscionable and knowledgeable individuals, managed by a truly autonomous government agency that applys the good intent of law without fear or favour or political steerage can stop people dying at work. It is ONLY when we have “police types” willing to provide the “short sharp shock” needed for people to change their habits that things get better… And yes of course there is also the problem of “over policing”. But this is certainly NOT the case in industrial safety… Superficial awards, finger pointing, unnatural relationships, backslapping, talkfests and guffaws are what SA safety has degenerated to.

  4. Hi Kevin
    Thanks for starting the discussion on SWMS.
    Let\’s scrutinise the part the OFSC play in the debacle the SWMS have become and drifted away from their intent.

  5. It fair to point out that Markos may have left the regulator because of the bureaucracy and red tape? It’s about time someone had the courage to say this. I’ve met Markos and he also worked as a national manager for a tier 1 construction company and worked for a short time with the HSE in the UK. The FSC are a joke and should go, they think safety is achieved by paperwork. Good on Markos I hope he continues to raise these issues and make some change for the better.

  6. I think that if you read the original article that Mr markos is talking about the elephant in the room which is the FSC not the state regulator. Safework are the same as any other WHS regulator, bumping along and reacting to work place incidents as they occur. In the building industry the FSC are the organisation that have trully caused the escalation of the paper based empire. MBA members are obviously frustrated by FSC\’s illogical demands to have lengthy written procedures and forms that do not improve site safety and have let Mr Markos know what they want – the closure of the FSC.

  7. Dare I say that the nanny state isn\’t being driven by the regulators, but rather by the litigators.
    Risk management guidelines within regulations are reasonably broad.
    I\’d suggest that a multi page risk assessment for the use of a silicon caulking gun as referred to in the original article isn\’t within the scope of regs, but rather the result of an over zealous safety git.
    Interestingly the MBA provides a safety advisory and consulting service to industry. Perhaps they should look a bit closer to home before taking the easy shots at the regulator?

  8. The opinion of many people and me amongst them who are involved in OH&S and have had any interaction with Safework SA don\’t rate that organisation as a wellspring of talent in the actual application of means to aid the reduction of workplace injuries, so much so, their own masters are looking at ways to merge them into some other entity because of their lack of effectiveness.

    Maybe some are jumping ship early?

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