The Liberals, currently lead by Tony Abbott, are the Australian equivalent of the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom and the Republicans in the United States and follow many of the free market principles that support capitalism. In terms of workplace safety, commitments are less obvious than those from the Left side of politics. Often workplace safety is wrapped in other concepts and there is an expectation that benefits to workers will somehow flow on from those benefits granted to employers and business, benefits frequently termed as part of productivity.
The leadership squabbles in the Australian Labor Party (ALP) have diminished for the moment, and the next Federal election is set for September 2013. Most everyone is tipping the ALP to lose the election. The verb “lose” is specifically chosen, for the opposition Liberal/National coalition will probably win “by default”. Whatever the electoral outcomes, the major political parties in Australia have current positions and policies on workplace safety. Six months out from an election, it may be worth looking at those policies, as they currently stand. The first is that of the ALP.
The ALP has an extensive National Platform that was presented at its National Conference in 2012. Below are some of the statements from that document as they pertain to occupational health and safety (OHS). Some commentary is offered on these statements.
The Australian Government has released its report into a review of its national workers’ compensation scheme, Comcare, and the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (SRC) Act. Some of the media (and politicians), as it often does, has focused on the seemingly absurd compensation claims. Few cases have gained the same degree of national and international attention as the sexcase for instance, and although most workers’ compensation reports focus on post-incident treatments, there is a glimmer of hope on occupational health and safety (OHS) in this latest review.
The report, the latest undertaken by Peter Hanks QC, states that one of the guiding principles of the SRC Act should be an acknowledgement that
“The benefit and premium structure should promote incident prevention and reduce risk of loss.” (page 25)
This would be a wonderful benchmark to apply but is likely to be overshadowed by the compensation and rehabilitation issues of the review, unless OHS professionals and practitioners continue to remind regulators that prevention is better than cure.
Occupational health and safety has many examples of addressing small or short-term issues rather than facing the difficult and hard, but more sustainable, control measures. I was reminded of this by a recent media statement from the United States Chemical Safety Board (CSB) in relation to fatigue management.
In 2007 the CSB recommended that, following the Texas City refinery fire,
The progress of API and USW in developing the 2010 ANSI-approved Recommended Practice 755 (RP755) has been reviewed by the CSB staff and they have found the following disturbing problems:
“The document was not the result of an effective consensus process, and therefore does not constitute a tool that multiple stakeholders in the industry can “own.” It was not balanced in terms of stakeholder interests and perspectives, and did not sufficiently incorporate or take into account the input of experts from other industry sectors that have addressed fatigue risks. Continue reading “CSB pushes for a more effective discussion on fatigue management”