This Sunday SafetyAtWorkBlog will be reporting from the 2018 National Conference of the Australian Labor Party (ALP). It promises to be extra lively as the country is only a few months away from a General Election and the ALP is tipped by most to win, or rather, the Liberal/National Coalition to lose. The intention is to watch for discussion of issues that relate to, or affect, the management of worker health and safety. There will be some, if one accepts that the most effective and sustainable occupational health and safety (OHS) solutions come from both a introduce multidisciplinary approach and that one that looks “at the source” of hazards.
The current draft National platform has a specific chapter on Safety At Work but the document is riddled with safety commitments. Curiously there is no specific mention of Industrial Manslaughter, although the ALP will
“ensure there are strong deterrents for employers who are responsible for workplace deaths”.
The trade union movement has often been instrumental in affecting and sometimes creating government policy on occupational health and safety (OHS). The latest generation of hazards – psychosocial – can be traced back to a survey late last century of workplace stress conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). This week the ACTU released its survey into sexual harassment at work.
The current survey should not be seen as representative of any social group other than trade union members even though the survey was completed by 10,000 of them. Also, this survey is far less likely to be as newsworthy as last century’s surveys as the agenda on workplace sexual harassment has already been established by reports from groups like Universities Australia and, especially, the current work by the Sexual Discrimination Commissioner and the Australian Human Rights Commission. It is also likely to be covered, probably as a secondary issue, in the various mental health inquiries scheduled for 2019.
The ACTU survey provides additional information to our understanding of sexual harassment at work but certainly not the whole picture.
It is difficult to make a book about occupational health and safety (OHS) law interesting. Some try with creative design but the most successful is when laws are interpreted into real world circumstances. Thankfully Breen Creighton and Peter Rozen have written the latter in the 4th edition of Health and Safety Law in Victoria. Independent Australian publishers, Federation Press, recognise the significance of this edition:
“This is an entirely re-written and greatly expanded edition of this standard text on occupational health and safety law in Victoria….[and]
…Critically, the new edition locates the 2004 Victorian Act firmly in the context of the harmonised work health and safety regime…”
This discussion of context lifts this book from an analysis of one State’s OHS laws to an analysis of harmonisation, which may be offer a useful counterpoint to
The Senate Committee inquiry into industrial deaths has released its report which, amongst many things, recommends the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter laws. At the end of this year, Marie Boland will present government with the final report of her review into Australia’s work health and safety (WHS) laws.
Before all this, in September, in Perth, Stephanie Mayman told a safety conference in Perth that:
“… I think we’re about to see industrial manslaughter recommended by Marie Boland.”
Boland has heard a lot about Industrial Manslaughter
Australia has been told for a long time that workplace bullying was an epidemic. Recent data seems to indicate that workplace bullying is a persistent problem which, to some extent, has blended into the miasma that is work-related mental health. The Fair Work Commission released its 2017/18 Annual Report on October 18 (not yet online) adding further doubt to the epidemic claims.
Below is a comparison graph (page 19) of FWC activity which shows 721 applications concerning workplace bullying. It is ninth in the list of FWC activities.