Industrial Manslaughter laws for NSW? Sizzle but no steak

Some trade union and occupational health and safety (OHS) newsletters are stating that the New South Wales Labor Party has pledged to introduce Industrial Manslaughter laws should it win this weekend’s State Election. Looking at the actual pledges shows the commitment may not be as solid as some expect and others hope.

The NSWLabor website related to workplace safety matters seems to make no commitment for the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter laws, only to discuss laws and penalties in comparison to the penalty for manslaughter under other laws:

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Rotting fish and leadership

Free Access

Occupational health and safety (OHS) has been obsessed by Leadership for a long time. Leadership is important to establish safe and health workplaces but there is certainly a lot more to change than waiting for the boss to see the light. In many of these discussions, someone will use this phrase to emphasize the importance of leadership:

A fish rots first from the head

This is a biologically suspicious statement that SafetyAtWorkBlog has been eying to verify or dismiss for several years, unsuccessfully. A new fact checking website site drawing on the scientific community has been established and SafetyAtWorkBlog recently posed this question to www.metafact.io:

Does a fish rot from the head?

Let’s see what the experts say but in the meantime, please post your thoughts and comments on the question below.

Kevin Jones

Scarlet M for Manslaughter

In March 2019, the Northern Territory government released its “Best Practice Review of Workplace Health and Safety in the Northern Territory”. This report was written by Tim Lyons who reviewed the Queensland work health and safety (WHS) Laws not so long ago. Lyons is creating a career path as sustainable as Alan Clayton who seems to have reviewed all the workers’ compensation systems in the Asia Pacific!

There are many similarities between the two reports which is not surprising – same Model WHS laws, same reviewer….. Yes, Industrial Manslaughter laws were recommended but this is almost a pro forma recommendation at the moment, as it has been supported by at least two State governments, recommended in a Senate inquiry into industrial deaths and pragmatically recommended by the Boland Review. In many ways these WHS-related reviews are feeding off each other.

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Enforceable Undertaking related to workplace death

Several readers have raised their eyebrows over recent media reports in South Australia that say that SafeWorkSA is in the process of accepting an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) related to the death of 54-year-old Debra Summers, who was found dead in a freezer at the Echunga police training reserve on October 4, 2016. The use of EUs when a fatality is involved deserves discussion and resolution, especially when the workplace death involves a hazard that was so well-known.

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Family violence at work, looking at trees instead of forest

Victoria’s Minister for Workplace Safety, Jill Hennessy, has released a media statement about the occupational health and safety (OHS) context of family violence, referencing a WorkSafe Victoria guidance note from January 2018.

Hennessy is quoted saying:

“Employers have a legal obligation to provide a safe workplace for their employees – and that includes doing whatever they can to support workers experiencing family violence.”

But what level or type of support is expected from employers? Family violence is damaging and insidious but also a crime. It is also a subset, or maybe a special type, of workplace violence as is evident by WorkSafe’s reference to its broader violence publication at the end of the family violence guidance note. The publication, A guide for employers Preventing and responding to work-related violence, outlines the employers duty of care, which includes prevention.

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