The party politics of safety

The Safety Institute of Australia, commendably, approached the major political parties running in Australia’s current federal election campaign. Only the Australian Labor Party (ALP) responded to the SIA, but the policy documents of the Australian Greens and Liberal and National Parties are available online and their relevance to occupational health and safety (OHS) deserves attention.

The ALP information should be familiar to SafetyAtWorkBlog readers:

• “Show national leadership and meet with work, health and safety ministers from across Australia in the second half of this year to decide on the best course of action of the recommendations to come out of the Boland review.
• Work with state and territory governments to implement a harmonised industrial manslaughter offence.
• Establish a national advisory committee made up of representatives from each state and territory who have been personally impacted by a serious workplace injury or death to develop recommendations for federal, state and territory governments to act upon.”

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The politics of safety

Bill Shorten third from the right at the 2012 Safe Work Australia awards in Parliament House Canberra

There is little doubt that Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten, believes that occupational health and safety (OHS) is important. His interest was on show, perhaps most significantly, during his time as a union leader at the Beaconsfield mine disaster but he has spoken at various OHS awards, the opening of the National Workers Memorial, local memorials, and was a participant in the Maxwell Review of Victoria’s OHS review in 2006.

OHS has not appeared yet in the current Federal Election campaign. It rarely does. But there is an opportunity to argue that the Australian Labor Party (ALP), of which Shorten is the leader, will not only create more jobs for Australian but that they will be safe jobs. To an OHS professional, it seems to be a simple position, a position that is extremely difficult to argue against. However, the politics of safety in Australia cannot be separated from the role and activities of the trade union movement. Yet, OHS is not just a union challenge, it is relevant to all workers and their families, but only the trade unions seem to have an OHS voice. Letting this situation continue is not sustainable.

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Conspiracy accusations over rail construction project

On March 17 2019, a community radio program and podcast “The Concrete Gang” broadcast some comments about occupational health and safety (OHS) on a rail construction site in Victoria, Australia, believed to be the Aviation Rd, Laverton site. SafetyAtWorkBlog attempted to factcheck the accusations.

Construction company McConnell Dowell is providing construction services on various sites for the Level Crossing Removal Project. According to The Concrete Gang:

“… McConnell Dowell level crossing removal have had a few dramas out there what we’ve got is we’ve a live train and they’re trying to put a level crossing in while there’s a live train going.  They normally do what we call a shutdown which is an occupation where they shut down the line and they’re lifting concrete beams and build a bridge.  Well McConnell Dowell in their wisdom are trying to do it between 10-minute stops…”

“….the workers on the job have got issues because they’re obviously lifting precast elements over trains and there’s obviously no safety…”

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What was overlooked during Budget week

Last week the Australian media was dominated by discussions on the Federal Budget and it being the precursor to a Federal Election in May 2019. But there were several actions in the few scheduled days of Parliament which relate to occupational health and safety (OHS). Below is a summary of some of them.

Labour Hire

In support of the Morrison Government Budget, Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations, Kelly O’Dwyer, issued a media release stating that in response to Migrant Workers Taskforce Report, the Government (should it be re-elected, in reality) will establish:

“….a National Labour Hire Registration Scheme to ensure compliance and transparency in the labour hire industry in high-risk sectors;”

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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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