COVID vaccination concerns exist in workplaces too

Recently NSCA Foundation conducted an online seminar on mandatory vaccinations. As happens with many online seminars, this one became more of a lecture because there was insufficient time allocated to answer the questions from the audience. The online seminar was in three sections – Occupational Health and Safety (OHS), Industrial Relations (IR) and Privacy. The information from Sparke Helmore lawyers was fine and current, but the questions from the audience provide an interesting insight on some of the main COVID vaccine challenges facing employers.

The seminar started with a useful poll. Below are the questions and results:

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Trying to make the horse drink

The discussions about occupational health and safety (OHS) and its relevance to COVID19 has finally touched the mainstream media with an article in The Age newspaper on May 7, 2020. The article is largely a reiteration of statements made by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and the Minister for Industrial Relations over the last few days but it is the first time that Safe Work Australia (SWA) has joined in.

The Chair of Safe Work Australia, Diane Smith-Gander has stated that additional regulations may have unintended consequences. She is quoted saying:

“We’ve got to let that system operate,… If we try to over-regulate and over-legislate, we will have unintended consequences for sure.”

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OHS and Neil Foster

Neil Foster is a professor at the University of Newcastle in New South Wales with an Arts/Law degree, a degree in Theology and a research Master of Laws degree. He teaches Torts, Workplace Health and Safety Law, and an elective in “Law and Religion”, has published a book on Work Health and Safety Law in Australia and writes an intriguing blog about law and religion. He has accepted the offer of humanising OHS and provided the answers below:

How did you get into Health & Safety?

I was teaching law on a casual basis to “non-law” students in a number of different areas, and my supervisor at the time was asked by the Health Faculty at our University if she could find someone to teach “OHS Law” as part of a degree in OHS they were offering. Keen for more paid work, I agreed! Once I got into this, I saw what an important and interesting area it was, and stuck with it! Some years later the opportunity arose to convert my online teaching notes into a textbook, and I wrote these up just about the time the new WHS Acts were starting into my book “Workplace Health and Safety Law in Australia”.

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Some OHS webinars are much better than others

The Ballarat Regional Occupational Safety and Health (BROSH) group conducted an online seminar on March 31, 2002 at which Tracey Browne of the Australian Industry Group (AIGroup) spoke. The content was very good, and the format worked even though many people are still trying to acclimatise to online meetings and the muting of microphones.

Browne provided a general update on managing occupational health and safety (OHS) during the COVID19 pandemic disruption but there were a couple of notable contributions.

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OHS and Wade Needham

It’s been a while since SafetyAtWorkBlog offered a profile on one of its subscribers. Wade Needham was generous enough to answer some questions about himself. His responses are intriguing and he provides excellents links to other resources.

Wade Needham on the far right in 2018 with, from the left, Tim Allred, Andrew Barrett and Naomi Kemp

If you are a SafetyAtWorkBlog subscriber and would like to follow Wade’s lead, email your responses to the following questions:

  • How did you get into Health & Safety?
  • What drives you?
  • What helps you slow down?
  • Regrets?
  • Favourite fiction writer?
  • What is one trend you are watching keenly?
  • Person/s who you watch and take inspiration from in H&S that you think will have an increasing impact in the sector:
  • What are you most excited about in our sector?
  • What’s your favourite quote?
  • Biggest issue facing the H&S profession?
  • What do you wish you had understood sooner?
  • What would you like to see to improve collaboration in our sector?
  • What should you have been doing whilst you answered this?
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Auditing the auditors

In the wake of several corporate collapses, the UK Government commissioned a review of the business auditing sector. In 2019, the final report of the Brydon Inquiry was released recommending substantial changes to auditing. Occupational health and safety (OHS) is increasingly considered as part of corporate governance so these recommendations have a direct effect on OHS management and reporting.

This report is relevant to Australia for many reasons, principally, because the audit firms that were scrutinised by Donald Brydon operate here.

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Innovation rather than complaints needed on safety

Moree, Australia – November 25, 2010: A farmer performs a maintenance routine on his John Deere combine harvester in Moree a major agricultural area in New South Wales, Australia.

The Victorian “Labor” Government has submitted its Workplace Manslaughter legislation to its Parliament. Debate is likely to begin, in earnest, from November 12, 2019. There were several surprises on which various business associations have expressed concerns, one surprise was that businesses seem to have been ignored by the government.

In many ways, the challenges are less about the legislation than what those business associations plan to do about occupational health and safety themselves.

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