The harm presented by working in Australia’s mining sector has been a concern for a long time. Over the last decade or two, the psychosocial harm from the same work has come to the fore. The occupational health and safety (OHS) responsibility sits clearly with the employers who, in Australia, are often well-resourced national and international corporations. Recently SafeWorkSA issued a media release entitled “Sexual harassment in mining sparks campaign“. SafetyAtWorkBlog took the opportunity to put some questions to the South Australia OHS agency, to which it has responded.
WorkSafe Victoria has actively campaigned against occupational violence for the last few years. The pandemic, understandably, brought the focus onto violence against emergency services workers and healthcare staff. Recently the campaign has focussed on gendered violence at work. The intention is to be inclusive, to address the variety of violent acts and the variety of people gendered violence affects, but it is not as inclusive as it could be.
WorkSafe Victoria is advertising for a Program Officer for its new sex work industry obligations. It’s a tough ask as the candidates will need to combine a good level of occupational health and safety (OHS) knowledge with a close, effective association with the local sex work industry networks.
WorkSafe has outlined its expectations for sex work OHS with these suggested considerations:
There are many similarities between the management of occupational health and safety (OHS) and environment protection. Both seek to prevent and/or mitigate harm, and both have similarly focussed legislation. However, this similarity extends to vulnerabilities in each approach. Neither discipline is solely responsible for the lack of progress in prevention and protection, but both have not realised their potential for change.
Every so often, there are sufficient numbers of workplace deaths and injuries that a government feels the need to act. In 2019, the Queensland government closed down its mining sector for a “safety reset”, which required every mine worker to be retrained in occupational health and safety (OHS). Recently Western Australia needed to act on deaths in its farming sector and has established an inquiry into the issues.
Farming is perhaps the hardest industry in which to affect change. It is dominated by male workers and farmers. It has next to no union presence. OHS inspectors rarely attend farms except after a severe injury or death.
Australia is in the last few weeks of its federal election. Because it is a national election and occupational health and safety (OHS) is almost totally regulated at the State and Territory level, workplace health and safety is rarely if ever mentioned directly in campaign pledges. However, OHS does have a political campaign context if one accepts that some workplace hazards are caused or affected by social and government policies.
Australian Labor Party
The Australian Labor Party’s suite of campaign policies includes several items that could reduce the mental anguish in the community, thereby encouraging people to take jobs and making applicants more attractive to employers but there are no direct pledges on OHS. It states in its “Secure Australian Jobs” policy that:
Employers are less criticised about their workplace health and safety performance than the government, even though it is employers who have the primary duty of care for their workers’ occupational health and safety (OHS). The Federal (conservative) government and Prime Minister remind us regularly that the responsibility for OHS sits in the State and Territory jurisdictions. No one seems to accept their own responsibilities for OHS, so it is little surprise that worker health and safety has no effective national coordination.
Recently the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) released an OHS report entitled “Morrison Missing in Action on Work Health and Safety“. It is also looking in the wrong direction. Of course, the Prime Minister is missing in action – employers have the primary duty of care, which local jurisdictions enforce.
Although this document has good OHS information, references and statistics, it is primarily part of the current federal election campaign, reporting information that the politicians mostly already know.Continue reading “Two steps forward and one back”