The people deserve more respect from their politicians

According to Hansard, Western Australia’s Opposition Minister for Local Government, Tony Krsticevic put a Question on Notice to the Government about WorkSafe WA’s activities and meetings in relation to the City of Perth. The Council is currently undergoing an independent inquiry into its governance and workplace behaviours.  The investigation is scheduled to take 12 months.

Krsticevic asked:

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The avoidance of accountability creates legislation

This week the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) released its submission to the Independent Review of Work Health and Safety Laws.  The submission deserves reading fully as it reflects many of the positions on and perspectives of occupational health and safety (OHS) of Australia’s major businesses and, not surprisingly, it has a lot to say about Industrial Manslaughter laws.

Comparing  ACCI’s objections to the earlier attempt to introduce similar laws in Victoria in 2002 illustrates how little progress has been made.

Recent lessons from other major incidents, especially through the work of Professor Andrew Hopkins, have also shown the consequences of not taking responsibility for OHS.  The power to counter the calls for Industrial Manslaughter laws is in the hands of those corporate leaders who accept this responsibility and work with it.

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Why are we arguing about Industrial Manslaughter laws?

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From left: Dave Brownlee, Janine Brownlee & Lana Cormie

On the issue of Industrial Manslaughter laws, Lana Cormie (pictured far right) said:

“Employers need to have motivation to do the right thing, ’cause clearly they don’t do it off their own back.  So, if that means, if this’ll be the difference between them making OH&S a high priority and not, then it needs to be done.  And I think all the other benefits for the men on the ground, and the women on the ground, will filter down from that.  “

Her comments on International Workers Memorial Day emphasises that the introduction of these laws is not so much about new laws but the failure of the existing ones and of their application.  Over time, the general commitment to implementing occupational health and safety (OHS) has declined in many workplaces or, at least, has not progressed in the way expected by the safety law makers of the 1970s and 1980s.

Government has relied on the increase of financial penalties as the major deterrent Continue reading “Why are we arguing about Industrial Manslaughter laws?”

Lessons in integrity and discipline

Australia’s occupational health and safety (OHS) profession was late to the process of certifying its members.  The Safety Institute of Australia (SIA) has been running its certification program for a couple of years so it is difficult to assess the benefit to members and the community but a critical element in any certification is the treatment of members who breach the Code of Ethics or Code of Conduct.  The revelations of corruption and misconduct from Australia’s Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry provide important lessons in integrity and fairness to all professions.

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Interview with Dr Gerry Ayres

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This weekend is the International Workers Memorial Day.  In Victoria, in particular and in Australia more generally, it is highly likely that the issue of Industrial Manslaughter laws will be raised as part of a trade union campaign.

Dr Gerry Ayres, the OHS&E Manager of one of the branches of the CFMEU, features in an online petition about these laws and it seemed the right time to interview Dr Ayres about these laws but also about workplace health and safety enforcement and practices more generally.

The full audio of our conversation is available in the Safety At Work Talks podcast available on SoundCloud and Podbean.

SAWB:           Gerry I’ve seen your photograph on various petitions and flyers about industrial manslaughter laws in Victoria where the trade union movement is asking people to sign petitions and pressure the government into bringing in industrial manslaughter laws.  Why is the trade union movement doing this now and what’s the purpose of the laws?

GA:     And it’s a bit like what the industrial campaign is all about, it’s rules are broken, or our rules don’t seem to be working in terms of the legislative framework and the sanctions that are afforded to people when they break the OH&S laws and when it all goes horribly wrong and someone is killed. It’s very rare that the full financial penalty is ever applied to any employer who goes to court for a workplace fatality. Continue reading “Interview with Dr Gerry Ayres”