Ross Gittins is a prominent Australian economics journalist. In The Age on September 20, 2023, he wrote an article about the recent spate of corporations being prosecuted and penalized for breaking the law. Many of his points can also relate to companies and executives breaking occupational health and safety (OHS) laws.Continue reading “Toothless enforcement”
Occupational health and safety (OHS) seminars can be a bit hit-and-miss. Sometimes they seem to be a front for promoting a new management program, but every so often, the information offered is perceptive and rewarding. Herbert Smith Freehills partner Steve Bell has been consistently rewarding over many years. No quoting Section 321 of an OHS Act or PowerPoint slide of obscure and semi-important court cases here. His latest seminar appearance covered
- Due Diligence,
- Industrial Manslaughter,
- Psychosocial Risk Assessments
- OHS Harmonisation.
Occupational health and safety (OHS) needs new thinking. One of the most important elements of successful OHS comes from Consultation – a sensible process and one required by law. A major process for OHS consultation in those laws is through the Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs). This legislative (recommended) option was practical but is now almost an anachronism, yet the OHS regulators continue to support the process because it is in the OHS laws. And few will speak against the process because it is being maintained by the trade union movement as one of the last legacies of political influence over workplace health and safety.
This month Queensland government released its report into the review of its Work Health and Safety laws with these two of the three categories of recommendations:
- “elevation of the role of health and safety representative (HSR) at the workplace
- clarification of the rights of HSRs and worker representatives to permit them to effectively perform the role and functions conferred upon them and to remove unnecessary disputation,….”
The absurdity of HSRs’ persistence can be illustrated by the rumour that WorkSafe Victoria will encourage sex workers to follow the HSR consultative process through the OHS guidance expected to be released later this year.
An employment dispute over working hours has entered the mainstream media as it relates to the office of one of the crossbench independent members of parliament, a favourite target of some of the media. The dispute over the meaning of additional reasonable working hours illustrates several occupational health and safety (OHS) issues.
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.
Around a decade ago, parts of the Australian rail construction industry introduced the Pegasus Card. The intent was to have a single portal through which a worker’s competencies and eligibility to work could be verified. It evolved into the Rail Industry Worker Card in existence today. Pegasus remains in parts of the mining sector.
“The industry must explore ways to prevent perpetrators of serious sexual harassment simply finding reemployment on other sites and in other companies. This should involve:
– thorough exploration of an industry-wide workers’ register or other mechanism such as industry-wide accreditation, taking into account natural justice considerations and perhaps modelled on the Working With Children Card;…..
“industry-wide workers’ register”? Isn’t that what the Pegasus card helps to manage?
The harm presented by working in Australia’s mining sector has been a concern for a long time. Over the last decade or two, the psychosocial harm from the same work has come to the fore. The occupational health and safety (OHS) responsibility sits clearly with the employers who, in Australia, are often well-resourced national and international corporations. Recently SafeWorkSA issued a media release entitled “Sexual harassment in mining sparks campaign“. SafetyAtWorkBlog took the opportunity to put some questions to the South Australia OHS agency, to which it has responded.