ACTU Congress’ draft OHS policies deserve serious analysis

Pages from draft-2015-actu-congress-policies-2015-consolidatedThe Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) commences its 2015 Congress this week.  Each year around 800 trade union delegates meet to discuss changes to policies and to develop or refine strategies. This year the ACTU released its draft policies publicly prior to the Congress.  These policies have a long and strong historical and industrial relations context.  Occupational health and safety (OHS) is an important part of these policies and should spark discussions in the union movement and the OHS profession.

Early in the document, the ACTU states its “bargaining agenda” in which is included

“better work, life and family balance.” (page 7)

Curiously, the ACTU has chosen “better” rather than “safe”.  Better is a more inclusive term but harder to define.  Better for whom?  Better could be better paid or more secure or safer.

Trade unionists often see OHS as being monitored and enforced through the mechanism of the Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and would argue that OHS is throughout all the draft policies due to the HSR role but there are more workplaces in Australia without HSRs than with and it is worth considering the policies as independent from the HSR structure, if that is possible..

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Inconsistency on OHS roles in dairy careers guide

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Cover of WSV966__Dairy_Safety_webSeveral years ago, WorkSafe Victoria published “Dairy Safety: A Practical Guide“* A decade on Dairy Australia has published its career guidance “Stepping Stones” which seems to imply that not all employers and workers have a legislative responsibility to work safely and without harming others.

It is a legislative truism that “safety is everyone’s responsibility” and Dairy Australia advises that

“All farm businesses have an obligation under law to provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees, contractors, family, visitors and members of the public. Farm businesses who don’t act to fulfil health and safety responsibilities face significant fines and penalties.”

Cover of Stepping Stones - DairyHowever according to Stepping Stones only some dairy roles have an overt occupational health and safety obligation.  Continue reading “Inconsistency on OHS roles in dairy careers guide”

Beyond auditing for due diligence

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One of the most significant motivators for changes in safety leadership in the executive circles in Australia has been the obligation to apply due diligence to occupational health and safety (OHS) matters. The obligation has existed for several years now but is still dominated by legal interpretations rather than managerial ones. To support the legal obligations, OHS professionals should look at how they can add value to due diligence.  One way of achieving, and exceeding, compliance of due diligence would be to subject OHS systems and strategies to a peer-review rather than a narrow audit process. Continue reading “Beyond auditing for due diligence”

Uninspiring discussion on OHS in Tasmania’s Parliament

On 28 April 2015, the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, the Legislative Assembly of the Tasmanian Parliament discussed the significance of that day as a Matter of Public Importance. The discussion cannot be described as a debate but it does provide some insight to the ideologies of the political parties in that Parliament, which is almost a microcosm of Australian politics, and the general quality of understanding of occupational health and safety (OHS) management.

One of the fundamental pieces of information for such a day would be an accurate number of workplace fatalities. The Leader of the Opposition, Bryan Green (Australian Labor Party), made a basic faux pas by stating that the total number of workplace fatalities for 2014 was 44 when the figure was for deaths occurring in 2015 (the official figure for 2015 is now 51).  Later that evening, he corrected himself saying that this did not change his argument about the importance of inspectors but it does, and it was embarrassing.

Green listed the number of inspectors lost from Workplace Standards (

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Business report is contradictory on OHS

cover of small_business_taskforce_fa_lr_r2The Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) has released its small business blueprint.  The document continues the misunderstanding of industry and business groups in respect to occupational health and safety (OHS) and red tape.

The “Small business. Big opportunities” document continues to show OHS as a burden rather than an opportunity.  The chapter that discusses “high level of
labour market adaptability and flexibility” includes this recommendation:

“Simplify existing workplace relations legislation applying to small business, without removing the intent of regulations to provide safe, fair, productive and successful workplaces.

Small business currently needs to comply with numerous
substantial pieces of legislation (for example, taxation,
superannuation, OHS, equal opportunity and corporations law) that can act as a major disincentive to growth, employment and investment.” (page 10)

Previous SafetyAtWorkBlog articles have highlighted how inaccurate and unfair it is to include OHS obligations with other laws, such as taxation, as they have fundamentally different origins.  OHS laws are not a “major disincentive to growth, employment and investment”. 

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