The political cycle of OHS irrelevance

So, the Australian Labor Party (ALP), the political arm of the trade union movement, the friend of all Australian workers, failed to win government from the Conservative parties. Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) improvements are likely to be left to the magnanimity of the employers, Persons in Control of a Business or Undertaking (PCBUs) and those ideologically opposed to regulatory impositions.

But does the OHS future under Conservative governments mean that workers will be worse off? Sadly, Yes, if the experience of the United States is anything to go by, as illustrated in the analysis of the “Laissez-Faire Revival” by Thomas O. McGarity.

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Industrial manslaughter laws are (still) unlikely to save lives in the workplace

In June 2018, Rick Sarre, now the Dean of Law at the University of South Australia’s School of Law, wrote an article in The Conversation titled
Why industrial manslaughter laws are unlikely to save lives in the workplace“. On the eve of the #safetyscape conference and an upcoming conference on enforcement in which presentations on Industrial Manslaughter laws will feature, SafetyAtWorkBlog asked the very busy Professor for an update on some of the themes and thoughts in his article. Below are his responses.

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Better jobs should also be safer jobs

The impending election in Australia has started to generate various position statements and discussion papers from various lobbyists. The Australian Industry Group (AiGroup) and the Business Council of Australia (BCA) are the latest of these.

The AiGroup released its Productive and Fair Workplace Relations statement in late March 2019. Surprisingly there is no mention of occupational health and safety (OHS) even though its contribution to a productive workforce is well established. Its omission is doubly surprising given the political stink in some States about the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter laws.

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Boland’s WHS Report recommends a practical update of laws and practices

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)

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Making OHS an SEP (Someone Else’s Problem)

The death of Dillon Wu in 2018, is being investigated by WorkSafe Victoria and is still getting some media attention. The latest is an article in The Conversation by Associate Professor, Diana Kelly of the University of Wollongong called “Killed in the line of work duties: we need to fix dangerous loopholes in health and safety laws“.

This article focuses on the confusion over occupational health and safety (OHS) responsibility as Wu was a labour hire worker placed at Marshall Lethlean Industries by the Australian Industry Group. (AiGroup’s position on responsibility was given to SafetyAtWorkBlog in November 2018) It may seem that AiGroup has primary responsibility because it was Wu’s employer. But AiGroup told SafetyAtWorkBlog that

“All host employers sign agreements with AiGTS which specifically require the host employer to ensure apprentices are supervised and monitored during their engagement. “

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