Cocky on Industrial Manslaughter and confident on OHS of vehicles

Even before the Victorian Parliament (maybe) passes the Industrial Manslaughter amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Premier Daniel Andrews is promising new, targeted investigative resources. Even though Andrews acknowledged that the laws may not pass, he seems super-confident and we know that politics is littered with cases of over-confidence.

If the opposition Liberal/National Party coalition wanted to seriously embarrass the Premier and this Labor Government, it could nobble the changes in the Legislative Council in a move that would be popular with the major business organisations, agricultural industry groups and farmers.

Many of the issues Andrews’ raised at the Victorian Labor Party conference on 16 November 2019 make a lot of sense, but why jeopardise a crucial vote on the Industrial Manslaughter laws? And how will he bring commercial vehicles into the occupational health and safety statistics, as he has promised?

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Industrial Manslaughter Laws are treading water

On November 13 2019 the Victorian Parliament heard detailed debate (page 93) about Industrial Manslaughter laws but without resolution. Many of the points raised were familiar and along political party lines but of particular interest was the insights provided into how that State’s political leaders perceive occupational health and safety (OHS).

Each of the speakers reiterated the importance of OHS and how all workers deserve to go home at the end of the shift – you know the cliches and the debate held plenty of them. There was also a fundamental misunderstanding by many speakers though.

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Innovation rather than complaints needed on safety

Moree, Australia – November 25, 2010: A farmer performs a maintenance routine on his John Deere combine harvester in Moree a major agricultural area in New South Wales, Australia.

The Victorian “Labor” Government has submitted its Workplace Manslaughter legislation to its Parliament. Debate is likely to begin, in earnest, from November 12, 2019. There were several surprises on which various business associations have expressed concerns, one surprise was that businesses seem to have been ignored by the government.

In many ways, the challenges are less about the legislation than what those business associations plan to do about occupational health and safety themselves.

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New book on a neglected area of OHS research

Helen Lingard and Ron Wakefield have published one of the few books to look at how occupational health and safety (OHS) is structured and managed in government-funded infrastructure projects in Australia. Their new book, “Integrating Health and Safety into Construction Project Management” is the culmination of over a decade’s research into this area. The book is both a summary of that research and a launching pad for designing OHS into future infrastructure projects.

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OHS of work vehicles starts to get national attention

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One of the the most ignored areas of occupational health and safety (OHS) is the light commercial and fleet/company vehicles. This is changing in Australia, partly, because the former head of the Transport Workers Union, Tony Sheldon is now a Senator.

In Senate Estimates on October 23, 2019 (page 117 onwards), Senator Sheldon challenged the heads of Safe Work Australia on workplace vehicle safety. He posed a scenario in relation to the collection of injury/incident data:

“If you’re a truck driver and you’re operating for, say, a major retailer and you’re contracted to a transport company and your contract is as an owner-driver—you own your own rig—and you get injured whilst you’re out on the road and you get seriously injured, under what circumstances would that be included and under what circumstances would it not be included in your statistics for serious injury?”

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