Useful look at Victoria’s Industrial Manslaughter laws

Eric Windholz has released a perceptive paper on Industrial Manslaughter (IM) that neatly summarises the risks and rationales behind these legislative changes to Victoria’s occupational health and safety (OHS) laws.

Windholz explains two functions of the amendments – a motivator for employers to improve OHS in their workplaces and to provide a pathway for bereaved families to actively consult with the government.

The mechanism for the families’ input is the Workplace Incidents Consultative Committee. Windholz writes:

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Are OHS laws part of the safety clutter?

A major barrier to change is that Australia, as a whole, has never subjected its occupational health and safety (OHS) laws to a detailed analysis to determine whether the legislation and the supportive documentation works. To be clearer, Australia has never subjected its laws to a “safety clutter” analysis. No one seems to have tried to determine if the laws have any positive benefit on operational safety?

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Call for change on sexual harassment could use support from OHS

Discussion on the sexual harassment allegations against former High Court judge Dyson Heydon continue even though some Australian States’ media have returned to COVID19 clusters and football. On July 6, 2020, five hundred women in the legal profession published an open letter calling for

“… wider reforms to address the high incidence of sexual harassment, assault and misconduct in the legal profession”

The signatories call for an independent complaints body for the Australian judiciary and changes to the appointment of judges. What is missing is Prevention.

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Two steps forward, one backward

The latest media release from the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) shows a remarkable maturity and a newfound ability to be inclusive and topical.

The AIHS, in conjunction with several other occupational health and safety (OHS) related organisations, developed and released an important guidance on respiratory protection masks for the work environment. Not only is this super topical but the effort has the support of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), an organisation that, historically, has been reluctant to support OHS initiatives from outside trade union resources.

The primary purpose of the media release is to push the Federal Government for “the urgent establishment of a register for approved respirators (aka face masks)”, but this may be too simplistic and too narrow a focus especially when the issue of face masks is a critical part of the Governments’ plans to “reopen” the economy.

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The time is right to push for the prevention of injury

Canberra, Australia – October 14, 2017: A view inside Senate chamber in Parliament House

One of the major criticisms of Industrial Manslaughter laws by this blog is that the laws are likely to be a distraction from actions and changes that could prevent deaths. In 2018, the Australian Parliament conducted an inquiry into industrial deaths within which the prevention of death and injury was core. The recommendations of the inquiry’s final report – “They never came home—the framework surrounding the prevention, investigation and prosecution of industrial deaths in Australia” – have never really been acted upon, a fact mentioned in Australia’s Senate on June 11, 2020.

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