Industrial manslaughter debate reveals commitment and misunderstandings

Industrial manslaughter laws passed through the Queensland Parliament on October 12 2017.  The debate about the laws on that day is an interesting read as it illustrates some of the thoughts about workplace safety in the minds of policy decision makers, business owners, industry associations, trade unions and safety advocates.

Lawyer for Herbert Smith Freehills, Steve Bell, has said in a LinkedIn post that:

“Will [industrial manslaughter laws] make workplaces safer? In my view probably not, but it will certainly affect the manner in which businesses respond to workplace incidents and external investigations.”

This perspective is understandable and valid when one considers the laws to be a part of the post-incident investigation and prosecution.  A similar view was expressed in Queensland’s Parliament by the  Liberal National Party’s David Janetzki, based on the submission by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Queensland: Continue reading “Industrial manslaughter debate reveals commitment and misunderstandings”

Industrial Manslaughter arguments cover old ground

The Queensland Government is in the middle of a debate in Parliament and the media about the introduction of industrial manslaughter as an offence related to serious occupational health and safety (OHS) breaches.  It is both a good and a bad time for this debate. The laws are likely to pass but the debate is showing old arguments, weak arguments, political expediency and union-bashing but not a lot about improvement in workplace safety.

Timeline

Following two major fatal workplace incidents, in April 2017 the Government established an

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Queensland’s Industrial Manslaughter push moves to Parliament this week

Queensland’s Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Grace Grace is continuing to apply political pressure on the opposition (conservative) party over the issue of industrial manslaughter laws, prior to their debate in State Parliament this week.

In a media statement released on October 6 2017, Grace states that

“We owe it to the victims and their loved ones to ensure Queensland has strong industrial manslaughter laws to protect people on the job.”

This is an appealing statement during Australia’s National Safe Work Month but the relationship between industrial manslaughter laws and safer workers is not as clear and direct as the political statements suggest. Continue reading “Queensland’s Industrial Manslaughter push moves to Parliament this week”

Near Kill – Jim Ward speaks

Jim Ward is hardly known outside the Australian trade union movement but many people over the age of thirty, or in the occupational health and safety (OHS) profession, may remember the person Esso blamed for the Esso Longford explosion in 1998.  Just after the nineteenth anniversary of the incident that killed two workers and injured eight other, SafetyAtWorkBlog interviewed Ward about the incident but, more significantly, also about how that incident changed his world view.

For some time now Jim Ward has been the National OHS Director for the Australian Workers’ Union.  Here is a long interview with Ward that provides a useful perspective on OHS while Australia conducts its National Safe Work Month.

[Note: any links in the text have been applied by SafetyAtWorkBlog]

SAWB: Jim, what happened at Longford, and what did it mean for you.

JW:   So, on 25 September 1998, I got up out of bed and went to work, just as I’d done for the previous 18 years of my working life, at the Esso gas plant facility at Longford in Victoria.

There was nothing unforeseen or untoward about that particular day.  But due to, as one judge elegantly described it, “a confluence of events”, it turned out to be the most significant day of my life.

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OHS changes to come in wake of the Western Australia election result

It is rare to find an occupational health and safety (OHS) seminar that is captivating but there is almost always some useful bits of safety information, hopefully enough to make attendance worthwhile.

On March 24, 2017 the Safety Institute of Australia and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) held the annual breakfast seminar in Melbourne.  Speakers included representatives from the HSF law firm, the SIA, WorkSafe Victoria and SafeSearch.  Perhaps of most interest was HSF’s senior associate from Perth, Sam Witton (pictured), who outlined the OHS changes likely in Western Australia now the Australian Labor Party (ALP) is in power.

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A new option for avoiding OHS obligations

cover of Deferred-Prosecution-Agreements-Discussion-PaperA major motivation for occupational health and safety (OHS) improvements in many businesses is the potential damage to a company’s reputation if someone is injured or killed from the company’s operations.  Usually such an event would result in a prosecution by an OHS regulator but prosecution rates are variable and there are an increasing range of options and mechanisms, such as enforceable undertakings, available to companies in order to avoid a prosecution or financial penalty.

A new prosecution option has recently gained the attention of the Australian Government and one with which OHS professionals should become familiar as it could spread into their field of operations.

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ACTU Congress’ draft OHS policies deserve serious analysis

Pages from draft-2015-actu-congress-policies-2015-consolidatedThe Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) commences its 2015 Congress this week.  Each year around 800 trade union delegates meet to discuss changes to policies and to develop or refine strategies. This year the ACTU released its draft policies publicly prior to the Congress.  These policies have a long and strong historical and industrial relations context.  Occupational health and safety (OHS) is an important part of these policies and should spark discussions in the union movement and the OHS profession.

Early in the document, the ACTU states its “bargaining agenda” in which is included

“better work, life and family balance.” (page 7)

Curiously, the ACTU has chosen “better” rather than “safe”.  Better is a more inclusive term but harder to define.  Better for whom?  Better could be better paid or more secure or safer.

Trade unionists often see OHS as being monitored and enforced through the mechanism of the Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs) and would argue that OHS is throughout all the draft policies due to the HSR role but there are more workplaces in Australia without HSRs than with and it is worth considering the policies as independent from the HSR structure, if that is possible..

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