A moderate entry in the IR/OHS conflict

innes_willox_hi_resDuring last week’s conference session on occupational health and safety and industrial relations, Innes Willox of the Australian Industry Group also spoke but was not included in the previous SafetyAtWorkBlog article.  However, his speech notes for that session have just been released and deserve consideration.

“The last area I want to focus on today is that of safety and workplace relations. I think we should all agree that safety has for too long been an industrial punching bag: a weapon in what some still perceive to be the struggle between labour and capital.

I think this aspect of how we deal with workplace health and safety does much more harm than good. It devalues the notion of safety in the workplace and it wards off the development of a cooperative culture of safety in organisations.  For instance:

  • The use of the title of a safety officer on a site to pension off a loyal union member or official (or worse a friend or relative) is a disgrace and a betrayal of the workforce. And, of course, employers who agree to it are equally culpable.
  • And confected disputes over safety entwined in disputes over site access or right of entry disputes have no place in the current industrial landscape.

Instead of safety sinecures we need properly accredited safety inspectors who know and understand the modern workplace. We need safety inspectors who make safety their career, not a hobby.

  • We need people who understand technology; the changing regulatory landscape and the demands of 24/7 businesses.
  • They should want workplaces to hum – safely. They should be prepared to support and educate rather than punish and litigate as a first option.

And we need to build cultures of safety. This is hard enough without the appropriation of the safety agenda to exercise industrial muscle.”

In many ways Willox was the voice of moderation compared with the other speakers, Nigel Hadgkiss and Michael Borowick, but in some ways this adds strength to his position.  A moderate in the OHS/IR conflict may have more success in achieving change simply because of that moderate position.

Kevin Jones

1 thought on “A moderate entry in the IR/OHS conflict”

  1. As is often the case, the voice of moderation says succinctly what teh majority think, without putting it in a confrontational manner, the real question in my mind however is whetehr the politicians of both sides or for that matter, big business or the unions, have the motivation and wherewithall to actually carry through on such process given the entrenched deals and percieved loyalties and who owes who that is in place. Safety has not ream for giving something for past loyalties and the sooner pollies and unionists alkie realise this,the sooner tehre will be safe workplaces. It is incumbent on our polititicans to drive this in an appropriate manner and it is time for all politicians of all colours and persuasions to stop playing “silly buggers” with safety and determining what is in and what is out of consultation and discussions, just to make points scoring or look good in the press.

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