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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New OHS conference with prominent speakers

One of the hottest occupational health and safety (OHS) issues at the moment is Industrial Manslaughter but this is just one aspect of the enforcement of OHS and prosecution for breaches. In June 2019 a two-day conference on OHS/WHS Prosecution and Enforcement is being held in Melbourne, Australia with a list of respected speakers who are prominent in Australian labour law circles.

The conference is more expensive than some other OHS conferences but the list of speakers is impressive and the theme could not be more topical. (A brochure is available for download) Until March 15 2019, Criterion Conferences is applying an Early Bird discount of $500 for each delegate. SafetyAtWorkBlog has negotiated a further discount applicable to Subscribers only.

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Banking Royal Commission and corporate culture

Occupational health and safety (OHS) has come late to seeing its operations as part of the organisational culture of Australian businesses. Its realisation started with an assertion of a “safety culture” that operated in parallel with regular business imperatives but often resulted in conflict and usually on the losing side. OHS has matured and become less timid by stating that OHS is an integral part of the operational and policy decision-making.

Some of that business leadership that was admired by OHS and many other professions existed in the banking and finance sector which has received a hammering over the last two years in a Royal Commission. That investigation’s final report was released publicly on 4 February 2019. The report reveals misconduct, disdain, poor regulatory enforcement and a toxic culture, amongst other problems. The OHS profession can learn much from an examination of the report and some of the analysis of that industry sector over the last few years.

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Addressing the invisible causes of visible harm

The trade union movement was instrumental in showing that workplace bullying was a pervasive problem in Australian workplaces.  Many Codes of Practice and guidances for workplace bullying and occupational violence were written shortly after the action by the Australian Council of Trade Unions almost two decades ago.  But, for some reason, although sexual harassment was mentioned in those early documents, it never received the attention in occupational health and safety (OHS) circles that, in hindsight, it should have.

Perhaps a more sustainable and effective strategy would be to focus on the “harassment” rather than the “sexual”, or in

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