The Australian Government has released the final report of the Independent Review of its Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws, conducted by Marie Boland. Importantly, the Government has not issued its response yet and, given that there is a Federal Election in a couple of months’ time, is unlikely to. Why have another issue complicate the campaign particularly when that response may have to address Industrial Manslaughter laws which would focus on the accountability of business leaders? This Government has already been bruised on a similar issue through a Banking and Finance Royal Commission.
Regardless of this Government’s future treatment of the Boland Report, the report does progress occupational health and safety (OHS) and the operation of the WHS laws, reinforcing some aspects and challenging other. It is obligatory reading for those interested in OHS in Australia.
(SafetyAtWorkBlog is preparing an exclusive interview with Marie Boland for next week)
In 2017 the Queensland Government was advised to prohibit business insurance products that cover the costs associated with financial penalties that may occur after a successful prosecution of a breach of work health and safety (WHS) laws. This recommendation (page 47) was one of only two that were not accepted by the government and which were “referred to the WHS Board” for further consideration (footnote page 3).
On 17 October 2018 the Senate Education and Employment Committee’s report into industrial deaths similarly recommended the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments:
“amend the model WHS laws to make it unlawful to insure against a fine, investigation costs or defence costs where they apply to an alleged breach of WHS legislation;” (Recommendation 21, page xi)
Dr Rebecca Michalak has just published an extraordinary article calling on the Human Resources profession and many others to take a good, hard look at how they treat workers who may have been subjected to psychological pressures at work.
Human Resources personnel could feel particularly hard done by but Michalak stresses that there are many players in the process of creating and managing psychologically healthy workplace and of not adequately managing psychologically injured workers. She makes her proposition clear up front:
The Independent Review of Model WHS Laws being conducted by Marie Boland released a Public Consultation Summary on August 17 2018. Boland lists the concerns raised with her as including:
“the blurring of lines between WHS [work health and safety], public safety and public health”
“The length and complexity of the Regulations and Codes”
It is always good to see researchers assessing issues related to workplace health and safety rather than relying on overseas data. Recently researchers from the Australian Catholic University and St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne looked into “measuring the effectiveness of workplace health management programs” . The research adds to our understanding of these programs but the relevance to occupational health and safety (OHS) is limited.