Muddled talk is not helping OHS

A short discussion* in Tasmania’s Parliament on 16 September 2015 is illustrative of the use of language to answer a question, just not necessarily the question asked.  This type of political language has existed for centuries and will continue to do so but it contributes to people’s confusion about occupational health and safety (OHS) and the regulators’ role in enforcing OHS laws and should be called to account.

The question was asked by Independent Kerry Finch to Attorney-General Dr Vanessa Goodwin.

“Is the Government concerned about the rundown in staff for the WorkSafe program? Is the Government aware that there are only a reported 19 field inspectors, when it requires between 27 and 30 for the program to work efficiently? Does the Government plan to recruit more field inspectors for WorkSafe?”

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Drug and alcohol testing amendments may weaken safety

Last week the former Workplace Relations Minister, Eric Abetz, informed Australians that amendments had been introduced into the Building Code 2013 concerning drugs and alcohol testing.  However an analysis of those amendments shows that the amendments may not achieve what Abetz promised.

Siobhan Flores-Walsh, a Partner with the Australian law firm, Corrs Chambers Westgarth, has provided the following table that summarises a couple of those amendments. Continue reading “Drug and alcohol testing amendments may weaken safety”

Blog in OHS small business research

Recently a reader brought to our attention a research report from Edith Cowan University that used SafetyAtWorkBlog as an important source of occupational health and safety (OHS) dialogue. “A ‘Once in a Generation Opportunity’? Narratives about the Potential Impact of OHS Harmonisation on Smaller Firms in Australia” by Rowena Barrett, Susanne Bahn, and Susan Mayson,…

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SWMS – the infectious safety weed

Australian occupational health and safety (OHS) professional, Paul Breslin, is continuing his research into the use and application of the Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) in the construction industry.  His latest paper, recently published in the Journal of Health, Safety and Environment (subscription only) asks an important question:

“If administrative controls are one of the lowest levels of control measures under the hierarchy of control, why has the Safe Work Method Statement become a central element in ensuring safety in the Australian construction industry?”

Breslin’s article title summarises the frustration of many OHS professionals where safety relies on lower order controls of the

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Business report is contradictory on OHS

cover of small_business_taskforce_fa_lr_r2The Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) has released its small business blueprint.  The document continues the misunderstanding of industry and business groups in respect to occupational health and safety (OHS) and red tape.

The “Small business. Big opportunities” document continues to show OHS as a burden rather than an opportunity.  The chapter that discusses “high level of
labour market adaptability and flexibility” includes this recommendation:

“Simplify existing workplace relations legislation applying to small business, without removing the intent of regulations to provide safe, fair, productive and successful workplaces.

Small business currently needs to comply with numerous
substantial pieces of legislation (for example, taxation,
superannuation, OHS, equal opportunity and corporations law) that can act as a major disincentive to growth, employment and investment.” (page 10)

Previous SafetyAtWorkBlog articles have highlighted how inaccurate and unfair it is to include OHS obligations with other laws, such as taxation, as they have fundamentally different origins.  OHS laws are not a “major disincentive to growth, employment and investment”. 

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