In an industry where there are no employers, who is responsible for workplace health and safety?

The Victorian Government has been running an inquiry for a little while on the “on-demand workforce”, a term which seems to be a synonym for the gig economy. The government recently extended the deadline for public submissions. This is often a sign that inquiries are struggling for information which is almost an inevitable consequence if you schedule an inquiry over the Christmas/New Year break.

This inquiry has direct relevance to occupational health and safety (OHS) and vice versa.

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More than warm lettuce needed on Industrial Manslaughter laws

Applying the most effective way to have companies comply with their occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations has been debated in Australia and elsewhere for years.  The issue will arise again in 2019 and in relation Industrial Manslaughter laws as Australian States have elections, or the political climate suits.

There are several elements to the argument put by those in favour of Industrial Manslaughter laws. Workers are still being killed so the deterrence of existing OHS laws has seen to have failed.  Deterrence has been based on financial penalties and workers are still being killed so financial penalties have failed. Jail time is the only option left.

This is a simplistic depiction of the argument, but it is not dissimilar to some of the public arguments. The reality is that deterrence is achieved in two ways – telling the person of the consequences of an action and enforcing those consequences.

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Too big to change

The strong readership of the article on truck driver safety based on the research of Dr Clare George resulted in one reader remind me of Australian research from 2017 that looked at similar issues.

In 2017 Louise Thornthwaite and Sharron O’Neill published “Regulating the work health and safety of Australian road freight transport drivers: summary report“.  The authors wrote:

“Work health and safety (WHS) is a significant issue for the heavy vehicle road freight transport industry. The sector has a history of the highest fatalities and serious injury rates of any industry in Australia. While media focuses on drivers killed in road crashes, these represent only a subset of the hundreds of drivers killed or permanently disabled, and thousands more injured, in and around trucks each and every year.

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The Shock of the New

The Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) has recently published an article about the significant Human Resources trends for 2019. The trends identified include

  •  “A Change of Government”
  •  “Gig Economy Classification”
  •  “Sexual Harassment”
  •  “Technology Trends”

SafetyAtWorkBlog will be more specific in its occupational health and safety (OHS) “trends” for 2019.

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