Law Conference challenges everyone

This week Safe Work Australia commenced another round of public consultation on the recommendations of the Boland Report. There was no hint of this at last week’s WHS Prosecution and Enforcement Conference. That conference had no speaker from SWA but it did have Marie Boland as a keynote speaker, and even she made no mention of this next stage of consultation. However, the conference was lively, challenging and revealing.

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What is the problem that Industrial Manslaughter laws are intended to solve?

Marie Boland speaking on Day one

This week Melbourne Victoria hosted a conference about Work Health and Safety Prosecutions and Enforcement. The two-day conference, run by Criterion Conferences, focused on law and the application of that law. Occupational health and safety (OHS) was largely a subtext of the discussion, but it raised its head occasionally.

The audience of around 100 consisted of many OHS regulators and lawyers from most Australian States. This conference profile set the tone of this conference where a lot of legal knowledge and terminology was assumed even though, occasionally and not knowing the audience, a speaker trod old ground with Law 101.

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The potential of undocumented safety

SafeWorkSA’s CEO, Martyn Campbell, is fast becoming the highest profile occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator in Australia, partly because he has committed to communicating with stakeholders. Recently on the SafetyOnTap podcast Campbell, spoke about non-paper-based compliance. Given the current attention to safety clutter by David Provan and Greg Smith, his comments deserve some brief consideration.

Campbell was speaking about the importance of formalising OHS investigations through ICAM or root cause analysis and how proof of safety compliance comes through paperwork:

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Tough but short-term

A toxic fire in an industrial district creates plumes of dangerous smoke billowing up into the air as seen from behind a near by warehouse building, 2019. Credit:Christopher Freeman

Melbourne, Australia has recently suffered several notable factory fires that resulted from unsafe storage of chemical wastes. These fires have resulted in toxic fumes across residential suburbs, environmental damage to local waterways and some injuries to workers. Victoria’s Minister for Workplace Safety, Jill Hennessy has responded by increasing penalties for breaching occupational health and safety (OHS) laws. This is a good short-term measure and indicates to the community that their government is doing something but is not a sustainable prevention strategy.

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