Jail or Ruin? Is deterrence still effective?

This week Dr Rebecca Michalak wrote that penalties for breaches of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws need to be personal for people to understand the potentially fatal consequences at the work site or decisions that are made in the comfort of the boardroom. In this sentiment she echoes the aims of many who have been advocating for Industrial Manslaughter laws and also touches on the role of deterrence. But when people talk about Jail, are they really meaning Ruin? And do these options really improve workplace health and safety?

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Lessons from the US

The current COVID19 pandemic has presented businesses with a confusing risk challenge. Is the risk of infection a public health issue or an occupational health and safety (OHS) issue? The easy answer only adds to the confusion – it is neither and both.

In relation to epidemics and pandemics these are public health risks within which the OHS risks must be managed. In Australia, many of the OHS regulations and agencies were slow to provide the level of detailed guidance that employers were requesting and this was partly due to the regulators and agencies having to scramble together working groups and experts to rapidly produce such guidance. The situation in the United States offers a useful and reassuring comparison to how the Australian governments have responded but also offers OHS lessons for Australian employers.

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Possible replacements for Safe Work Method Statements

Could improving the situational awareness of workers replace Safe Work Method Statements?

Many Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals rally against the dominance of Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS). The application of SWMS beyond the legislated high-risk construction work parameters increases the amount of safety clutter and misrepresents OHS as being able to be satisfied by a, predominantly, tick-and-flick exercise. But critics of SWMS are rarely pushed on what, if anything, should replace SWMS? SafetyAtWorkBlog asked some experts and looked closer at the issue.

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Inspection data offers COVID19 risk priorities

The coronavirus pandemic is an unexpected challenge for many employers and for workers. As this article from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation shows, there is confusion about the rights and duties of both parties at work.

Larry acted under his duty to not put himself at harm by raising his concern to his employer. The employer should have already determined that the workplace is safe and without risks to health and implemented control measures to reduce the risk of cross-infection. Guidance on how to do this has existed for several weeks.

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Industrial Manslaughter in WA but Federally? Unlikely

Gold warm sunlight on CBD of Perth city as seen from Kings Park. Source: istockphoto

The West Australian government presented its new Work Health and Safety (WHS) Bill to Parliament in November 2019 and debate has continued in February 2020. Joining with most other States in using the model WHS legislation is a major change for that State as it not only brings one set of occupational health and safety (OHS) laws to all businesses, including mines and petroleum, but it introduces the offence of Industrial Manslaughter. However, IM in WA has a two option penalty – “Industrial manslaughter – crime” and “Industrial manslaughter – simple offence”.

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Emerging OHS risks and strategies in Ballarat

On 25 February 2020, I spoke at a breakfast seminar at the Ballarat Regional Occupational Safety & Health Group (BROSH) on emerging OHS risks and strategies. Below is an edited version of that talk, which touched on CORVID19, bushfire smoke, sexual harassment, mental health, safety culture and communication:

Industrial Manslaughter

Industrial Manslaughter laws will come into effect in Victoria in the middle of this year.  Anyone who thinks these laws may relate to their workplace or how their businesses are run, should be afraid.  But they should also be ashamed.  If they are worried about going to jail because their OHS decisions may be negligent, they are not managing the safety and health of their workers in the way the law intended, or the Regulator and the community expects.  They should be ashamed.

If you need an authoritative and informative speaker on workplace health and safety for your event, or just good, practical OHS advice, email Kevin Jones
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Dreamworld presents a story bigger than just an OHS failure

Late yesterday the Queensland Minister for Industrial Relations, Grace Grace, issued a media statement that clarified the work health and safety (WHS) prosecution process that is likely to apply to Ardent Leisure, the owner of Dreamworld. Significantly she clarified the Coroner’s Findings and the misinformation of some media outlets. Ardent Leisure has issued a statement in support of safety improvements.

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