Occupational health and safety (OHS), building safety and public safety often overlap but never more so than in the instance of the Grenfell fire of June 2017. The UK Government has just released the final report into the incident and there are many interesting lessons for workplace health and safety and its social role.
According to Hansard, Western Australia’s Opposition Minister for Local Government, Tony Krsticevic put a Question on Notice to the Government about WorkSafe WA’s activities and meetings in relation to the City of Perth. The Council is currently undergoing an independent inquiry into its governance and workplace behaviours. The investigation is scheduled to take 12 months.
The Australian media on May 16 and 17, 2018 contained several articles about the dropping of a blackmailing case against two prominent trade unionists, John Setka (pictured right) and Shaun Reardon. There are many issues and allegations in this legal action which started from a contentious Royal Commission and an ongoing dispute between the CFMMEU and the Grocon construction company.
Some unionists, such as the ACTU Secretary, Sally McManus on ABC Radio, say that the current case was “all about safety”. It is not all about safety and such misrepresentation needs to be called out. The original dispute was over the election of Health and Safety Representatives (HSR) – whether these could be appointed by the company or the union. This quickly became about power and influence not specifically about workplace health and safety.
There is no doubt that Setka has a
The primary occupational health and safety (OHS) duty rests with employers or, as they are known in most Australian jurisdictions, Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU). Laws are based on an assumption that employers are aware of this duty and that this duty, to provide a safe and healthy work environment without risks to health, reflects the employer’s social position and social responsibility or the company’s “social licence“. But there have always been employers who do not care and who see employees only as units of labour and who believe that “if you don’t like working here, there’s the door”. It is time for a reboot.
Many Western countries are beginning to review their OHS laws in light of the changing nature of work but these reviews continue to be based on the assumption that employers care even though the emergence of the gig economy and the new
There seems to be a growing community frustration with regulators who hesitate to prosecute about breaches of laws, including occupational health and safety (OHS) laws, and about options that sound reasonable, like Enforceable Undertakings, but still let businesses “off the hook”. The calls for Industrial Manslaughter laws are the most obvious manifestations of the anger and frustration from perceived injustices.
But perhaps there was another way to achieve change in workplace safety, a way that could be based on a model that Australia and other countries already have.