The review of Australia’s OHS laws starts

In 19 February 2018, Safe Work Australia (SWA) “launched” the independent review of Australia’s Work Health and Safety laws under former Executive Director of SafeWorkSA, Marie Boland.  SWA has released a 49-page discussion paper, a summary and a list of questions.  Below is an initial response to some of those questions.

What are your views on the effectiveness of the three-tiered approach – model WHS Act supported by model WHS Regulations and model WHS Codes – to achieve the object of the model WHS laws?

The structure works well, when business owners know of the relevant documents.

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Industrial Manslaughter laws in Australia are about politics, not safety

The latest push for Industrial Manslaughter laws in Australia has appeared as part of the Tasmanian state election.

The Tasmanian branch of the Australian Labor Party released its policy platform for jobs in February 2018 which makes specific and vague commitments on workplace safety which require scrutiny.

Precarious Work

The Tasmanian Labor Leader, Rebecca White, states that

“Labor is committed to addressing casualisation and the outsourcing of work…”

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The future of OHS under the Australian Labor Party

At Australia’s National Press Club on October 18 207, the Australian Labor Party’s Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Brendan O’Connor spoke, ostensibly on industrial relations but occupational health and safety (OHS) was mentioned.  O’Connor provided several examples of worker exploitation and casual work and then stated

“There is something really wrong when those big, household-name companies apparently feel absolutely no responsibility, or consider themselves immune from reputational risk, for exploitation of the workers on whose labour they make a vast profit. This is why at the last election, Labor promised a National Labour Hire licencing scheme. We said we would issue a licence to only those who have a clean record of complying with employment, tax and OH&S laws, and that licences would be revoked for serious misconduct.”

In the discussions about the regulation of the labour hire industry OHS has been given, comparatively, little attention so it is useful to note even the small amount of prominence granted it by O’Connor.

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Industrial manslaughter debate reveals commitment and misunderstandings

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Industrial manslaughter laws passed through the Queensland Parliament on October 12 2017.  The debate about the laws on that day is an interesting read as it illustrates some of the thoughts about workplace safety in the minds of policy decision makers, business owners, industry associations, trade unions and safety advocates.

Lawyer for Herbert Smith Freehills, Steve Bell, has said in a LinkedIn post that:

“Will [industrial manslaughter laws] make workplaces safer? In my view probably not, but it will certainly affect the manner in which businesses respond to workplace incidents and external investigations.”

This perspective is understandable and valid when one considers the laws to be a part of the post-incident investigation and prosecution.  A similar view was expressed in Queensland’s Parliament by the  Liberal National Party’s David Janetzki, based on the submission by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland: Continue reading “Industrial manslaughter debate reveals commitment and misunderstandings”