Industrial Manslaughter is more than just a law, it is a cry for justice.

For those Australians who are watching the latest political push for Industrial Manslaughter laws, it is important to remember that the activity has a history that extends over a decade.  Many of the current arguments for and against have been addressed previously.  In August 2004, the earlier iteration of this blog, Safety At Work magazine, printed a special edition on “The Australian Industrial Manslaughter Debate”.  Below is an edited version of my Editorial in that magazine. A longer article on the issues raised in that edition is available elsewhere in the SafetyAtWorkBlog.

 

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Not even lip service to OHS

Australia currently has a lot of official inquiries into workplace issues that affect the occupational health and safety (OHS) of workers.  It is almost impossible to keep up with them and, as a result, some important voices are being missed, but even if they spoke, there is a strong chance they will not be listened to. The Victorian Government has released the final report of the Inquiry into Penalty Rates and Fair Pay.  There are two overt mentions of OHS that don’t seem to go anywhere.

In a submission quoted by the Inquiry, the

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People Centred Prevention should not be a new concept

The World Congress on Safety and Health is physically and mentally exhausting.  Physically, simply because of its size.  Mentally because there is so much information.  Some that confirms your occupational health and safety (OHS) approach and others that conflict with what you know. Some information that seems incredibly dated and anachronistic but you look around and this seems new and wonderful to other delegates.

A major theme of the Congress was “People Centred Prevention” (PCP). This is one of the anachronisms. Wasn’t OHS always about keeping people safe?  If this theme had originated in the United Kingdom, it could have been contextualised as redressing the red tape attack on OHS regulation by previous governments – bringing the humanity back to OHS – but it is being proposed in this Congress as a significant change of focus and perspective.

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OHS is PHS (public health and safety) but government needs to catch up

The Australian Human Rights Commission has released a report into the prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault in Australia’s university campuses. It has revealed some shocking statistics and brings Australian universities into the global phenomenon of reassessing university obligations for the modern world.

Australia’s occupational health and safety laws and obligations could be used as a structure for preventing assaults and harassment if the government and universities would be brave enough to use them.

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Poor worker safety through gov’t disinterest and high unemployment

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Dhaka, Bangladesh – April 29, 2013: A view of collapsed Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh. Over 1,130 workers of apparel factories were killed and 2500 others were injured when the eight-storey factory build collapsed on the outskirts of Bangladesh capital Dhaka in 2013. Bangladesh is one of the major countries supplying ready-made garments to leading apparel brands of USA and Europe. Bangladesh also earns over US$ 28 billion a year by exporting apparel items.

The current edition of SouthAsia magazine has a short report on occupational health and safety (OHS) in Bangladesh that illustrate the political and social challenges for workers and citizens in a country. The article, “Poor Workplace Safety” (not available online) states that government data for 2016 list more than 1,225 workers killed and over 500 injured.  After these figures, and the fact that Bangladesh has a history of  catastrophic workplace disasters, the author, Mohammad Waqar Bilal, states

“In fact, the issue of workers’ safety has never been considered by the government on a priority basis.”

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