Genetic discrimination at the workplace

In the Men’s Health page (page 59, not available online) of the Australian Financial Review on 16 April 2009 was a mention of a verified case of genetic discrimination in worker’s compensation.

It says that a woman slipped at work and lodged a worker’s compensation application.  The assessment tribunal noted that some members of her family manifested Huntington’s disease which, in its early stages, may cause clumsiness and the tribunal requested a genetic test for the Huntington’s gene.

It is a shame that this article was limited to the Men’s Health page as the issues raised have considerable impact on how safety and return-to-work obligations are handled in workplaces.  

There are two studies quoted in the article and it is unclear which had the worker’s compensation case quoted.  It may have been Genetics in Medicine  but blog readers’ help would be appreciated.

Kevin Jones

An interesting short article on genetic discrimination from late-March 2009 is available online.

 

 

Insurance for OHS penalties

OHS law is generally structured in a positive way and based on the logic that people will act appropriately if there is a deterrent for doing the wrong thing.  This logic applies to many levels of public administration, commerce and psychology.

Some years ago, this logic was challenged during some consultation I undertook for a prison workshop.  It was necessary to assess the guarding of a machine not just for the “accidental” injuries but for malicious and purposeful injuries.  This established a lower common denominator than in the majority of workplaces. 

In this work environment to some inmates, the penalty for harming oneself and others was worth the risk.  It did not deter everyone.

Recently, an allegation has come to the attention of SafetyAtWorkBlog that a company providing OHS compliance advice to small businesses in Australia is also offering insurance coverage for OHS penalties.  Should a business proprietor be financially penalized by the OHS regulator for a breach of the legislation, the business proprietor would pay an excess of around $2000 and the (unnamed) insurance company would pay the balance.

Such a service places a $2,000 cap on OHS penalties and would remove a major reason behind penalties for unsafe practices and workplaces.

This is of concern to OHS professionals as we “trade” on the importance of OHS having a strong business case as well as a social benefit.

SafetyAtWorkBlog would be interested to hear from anyone who may have come across such insurance options elsewhere or have an opinion on such an option.

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