Legal Professional Privilege is the OHS equivalent of the Non-Disclosure Agreement

Pam Gurner-Hall is no stranger to this blog. Recently she appeared in an article by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) about access to information from South Australia’s occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator, SafeWorkSA.

SafeWorkSA has been under considerable scrutiny for the last few years. A “root and branch” review conducted by John Merritt is the latest inquiry. [Note: this article was written before the release of the Merritt report and the Government’s interim response last weekend. More on that report shortly]

Gurner-Hall’s concerns seem more about the government’s response to the inquiry and the application of Legal Professional Privilege (LPP). She is quoted saying:

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Who’s to blame?

All occupational health and safety (OHS) advocates should be reading the work of Jordan Barab. His latest article on “blaming the workers” for their own incidents is a great example of his writing. The article also illustrates one of the things about OHS that really gets up the noses of employers – if we don’t blame the workers, we have to blame the employers. An Australian answer to the situation would be Yeah, Nah.

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A fair dinkum fair go?

A New Work Relations Architecture is a radical book for Australia. Radical because its authors are proposing industrial relations reform, and Australia has had very little of this since Prime Minister John Howard‘s attempt with Workchoices in 2005. Radical also because it has taken inspiration from the Robens approach to occupational health and safety (OHS) laws.

The new “architecture” (thankfully, the cliche of “ecosystem” was not used) is described as:

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Inspired by OHS but ignoring the shortcomings

A new Australian book has been structured around a “new work relations architecture“. Amazingly, a whole chapter is devoted to the role of occupational health and safety (OHS) in this new structure.

This chapter is written by prominent law academic Ron McCallum AO, offers a good summary of OHS laws and identifies the challenges to those laws in the near future, but its discussion is more reserved than it could be.

McCallum sticks to the suitability of the Robens model of OHS laws which McCallum describes as a type of “managed decentralism”. He highlights challenges to the laws and their operations that will be familiar to readers:

  • climate change
  • gig work
  • working from home
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2022 review indicates the amount of OHS work needed in 2023

The end-of-year reviews are starting to emerge from Australia’s law firms. The most recent release is from Maddocks, who have released several short reports on occupational health and safety (OHS) hazards and suggested controls for employers to apply. So this is a year-in-review for 2022, but it is also a forecast of what needs to be changed in 2023.

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New trade union psychological safety survey shows how little has changed

Australia’s trade union movement has long been active on the issue of workplace psychological harm. Its 1997 Stress At Work survey of members led directly to the creation of workplace bullying and occupational violence guidance in Victoria and elsewhere. Over 20 years later, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) undertook another survey of its members (not publicly available), again on mental health at work.

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Unsuccessful dismissal case reveals sex work hazards

Last week was a big one for the sex industry in Victoria. A brothel manager was found guilty of allowing a 16-year-old girl to work as a dominatrix in his mother’s brothel. And a sex worker was found, by the Fair Work Commission, to be a contractor (paywalled) when working in the Top of the Town brothel.

These legal cases gained some attention in the mainstream press as they often are because sex work is seen as salacious and click-friendly. However, the Top of the Town court report offers insight into some of the occupational health and safety (OHS) hazards of brothel work.

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