New film provides an update on legal action over the 2014 Hazelwood mine fire

An independently-produced documentary, Our Power, about the Hazelwood mine fire had its Victorian premiere on March 2 2019. The Hazelwood coal mine fire was a major workplace disaster than generated substantial public health damage in the neighbour communities in the Latrobe Valley. An early record of the event and its impacts can be found in Tom Doig‘s book The Coal Face.

The documentary provides unique vision of the fire and how it burned and polluted the neighbourhood for over a month in 2014. As time goes on, the fire is seen more as an environmental disaster as it is workplace incident and speakers in Our Power are certainly confident in linking the fire with the privatisation of State-owned assets and the social injustice that underpins neoliberalism.

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More than warm lettuce needed on Industrial Manslaughter laws

Applying the most effective way to have companies comply with their occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations has been debated in Australia and elsewhere for years.  The issue will arise again in 2019 and in relation Industrial Manslaughter laws as Australian States have elections, or the political climate suits.

There are several elements to the argument put by those in favour of Industrial Manslaughter laws. Workers are still being killed so the deterrence of existing OHS laws has seen to have failed.  Deterrence has been based on financial penalties and workers are still being killed so financial penalties have failed. Jail time is the only option left.

This is a simplistic depiction of the argument, but it is not dissimilar to some of the public arguments. The reality is that deterrence is achieved in two ways – telling the person of the consequences of an action and enforcing those consequences.

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Is workplace health and safety still relevant?

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A quiet revolution is happening in workplace health and safety in Australia.  I don’t mean the laws – that boat sailed with the failure of the attempt to harmonise laws and tweak them for the new Century.  The change is coming from a realisation that what is still mostly called Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) has been misunderstood and misapplied, especially in the context of work-related psychological hazards.

OHS emerged in its most contemporary form in the 1970s in the UK and manifested in new laws in Australian States in the 1980s.  These laws stipulated that the primary duty of care for the health and safety of workers AND those affected by the work processes suits with the employers (ignore the absurd modern variation of employer in the Work Health and Safety laws – the PCBU – Persons Conducting Business or Undertaking as only lawyers really use the term.  Some prominent lawyers pronounced the acronym as “Peek-A-Boo” (you know who you are) as if OHS was a barely-held-together nightie! It was juvenile and didn’t help).  Workers have a duty to not harm themselves or others and to support the employer’s OHS processes.

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ALP’s National Platform and workplace safety

This Sunday SafetyAtWorkBlog will be reporting from the 2018 National Conference of the Australian Labor Party (ALP).  It promises to be extra lively as the country is only a few months away from a General Election and the ALP is tipped by most to win, or rather, the Liberal/National Coalition to lose.  The intention is to watch for discussion of issues that relate to, or affect, the management of worker health and safety.  There will be some, if one accepts that the most effective and sustainable occupational health and safety (OHS) solutions come from both a introduce multidisciplinary approach and that one that looks “at the source” of hazards.

The current draft National platform has a specific chapter on Safety At Work but the document is riddled with safety commitments.  Curiously there is no specific mention of Industrial Manslaughter, although the ALP will

“ensure there are strong deterrents for employers who are responsible for workplace deaths”.

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Bunnings knows their onions

“The Aussie sausage sizzle safety scandal suggests safety is simply something that some citizens are certain starts slips in store and on cement. A safety source says that some stores are succumbing to scurrilous suggestions that makes safety sound silly.” (Copyright: Kevin Jones)

Some Australia occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals have been frothing up about the controversy (?) over the decision of Bunnings Warehouse to encourage the charities who run the sausage sizzles to place the cooked onions between the sausage and the slice of bread to reduce the risk of slips from  onions falling off the top of the sausage in bread (a form of snack that some Australians call a “dog in a blanket”).

The issue that gained

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