Governments use legislation and the threat of punishment as a deterrent for dangerous actions and poor decision-making. Imposing harsh consequences is hoped to change the behaviour of companies and individuals. Occupational health and safety (OHS) laws are no different with deterrence being used to justify the introduction and enforcement of Industrial Manslaughter laws, for instance.
The Australian Senate’s current inquiry
South Australia’s occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator, SafeWorkSA, is being investigated by that State’s Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC). SafeWorkSA has been subjected to several inquiries over recent years but the current ICAC one is perhaps the most significant, and one that is generating a lot of local discussion, and that should be watched by all OHS professionals, Regulators around Australia.
It is important to note the specifics of the Inquiry or “Evaluation”.
On June 28 2018 in the West Australian Parliament, the Minister for Commerce and Industrial Relations, Bill Johnston, progressed the State’s move to towards harmonised Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws. According to Hansard, Johnston said
“Last July, I formed a ministerial advisory panel to advise on the development of a single, harmonised and comprehensive work health and safety act. The new act will cover all workplaces in Western Australia and be aligned with legislation in other Australian jurisdictions…..” (page 4146, emphasis added)
That WA will have new safety laws to cover all workplaces is a very good move;
On June 20 2018, the Australian government announced a National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, claiming it to be a world-first. Sexual harassment is not an occupational health and safety (OHS) hazard in many ways BUT the psychological harm it can create is. The job of an OHS person is to encourage employers to reduce work-related harm through prevention, so we need to prevent sexual harassment, just as we do for all the work activities that contribute to poor psychological health and safety.
The macroeconomic costs of sexual harassment in the workplace may be of interest to politicians and business lobbyists but this can be a significant distraction from identifying ways to prevent psychological harm, which should be the most important legacy of this type of inquiry.
Addressing the OHS impacts of
In 2015, the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) took legal action against the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and one of that union’s organisers, Pomare Auimatagi, over the organiser’s actions seemed to breach one of John Holland’s personal protective equipment (PPE) policies. The CFMEU and Auimatagi were found guilty of breaching the Fair Work Act and fined over A$58,000 by the Federal Circuit Court on 9 March 2018. The case raises a couple of occupational health and safety management issues.