On October 21 2019, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews posted on Facebook in support of his government’s move to introduce Industrial Manslaughter (IM) laws. He chose the death of Jacob Kermeen and its effect on the family in support of the need for these laws.
It is surely a coincidence that a fatality from a trench collapse was chosen for this exercise. Some of the leading advocates for IM laws are the relatives of two workers who died from a trench collapse in Ballarat in March 2018, a case being prosecuted by WorkSafe Victoria.
There are strong parallels between the National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces and others addressing workplace issues, such as the Victorian Royal Commission into Mental and the Productivity Commission’s mental health inquiry, but there is also a connection to the Royal Commission into Banking and Financial Services which has focused the minds of some of Australia’s corporation s and leaders into examining their own workplace cultures and, for some, to reassess the role and application of capitalism.
This is going to become even more of a critical activity as the National Sexual Harassment Inquiry completes its report prior to its release in the first month or two of 2020.
Cultural analysis, and change, is often best undertaken first in a microcosm or specific social context. The experiences of sexual harassment of rural women in Australia is one such context, a context examined in detail by Dr Skye Saunders in her book “Whispers from the Bush“.
One of the missed opportunities for improving occupational health and safety (OHS) over the last 30 years has been the application of corporate social responsibilities (CSR) to the supply chain and not to one’s own health and safety performance. CSR and OHS and social justice and decent work are all elements of the Venn Diagram of keeping people safe.
But this diagram exists in a world where economics dominates political decision-making and conflict results. Recently in Australia corporate leaders have spoken about various controversial social issues. Last week the Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Ben Morton advised companies to stop this advocacy and focus on the economic fundamentals of business. This week the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) released its Company Pulse survey results which shows that the community accepts that company executives can advocate for social issues.
The growth of visible and prominent customer services, such as those in the collective term of “gig economy” – has coincided with an increased consideration of alternative socioeconomic structures and broader political diversity, especially in the UK and to a lesser extent Australia and New Zealand. One manifestation of this change is an emerging consideration of Co-operatives and worker ownership. This may seem outside the occupational health and safety (OHS) purview of this blog but co-operatives often allow workers more input into business operations and therefore more influence on OHS standards and management. However, should this influence come from increased worker wealth or is OHS more fundamental than money?
Documents related to the development and implementation of Industrial Manslaughter laws in Victoria and seen by SafetyAtWorkBlog say that the Department of Justice and Community Services will draft a policy paper on the laws prior to the proposed Industrial Manslaughter Bill being presented to Parliament in October or November. October’s Work Health and Safety Month promises to be lively this year.
Participants in the Workplace Fatalities and Serious Incidents Reference Group had expressed concerns about the phoenixing of companies after a workplace fatality and that workplaces where deaths have occurred should be treated as a crime scene that:
“…should not be operational until a full investigation is complete”