Can poor safety management = negligence?

L to R: Catherine Dunlop and Dale McQualter

In relation to the release, last week, of the Brady Review SafetyAtWorkBlog wondered:

“It is worth asking whether a reliance on Administrative Controls could be interpreted as a level of negligence that could spark an Industrial Manslaughter prosecution.”

A seminar hosted by law firm Maddocks this week offered an opportunity to pose this as a question.

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Industrial Manslaughter – politics, suicide and misrepresentation

The 2020 business year has started with a bunch of occupational health and safety (OHS) seminars. Given last year’s moves towards Industrial Manslaughter laws in several Australian States, a discussion of these laws is inevitable and there are some voices calling out the politics of the issue. Herbert Smith Freehills’ Steve Bell is one of them.

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OHS law could prevent the psychological harm of sexual harassment

The prevention of psychological harm generated by sexual harassment has been a recurring theme in the SafetyAtWorkBlog. It is heartening to see similar discussions appearing in labour law research.

An article, published in the Australian Journal of Labour Law, called “Preventing Sexual Harassment in Work: Exploring the Promise of Work Health and Safety Laws” written by Belinda Smith, Melanie Schleiger and Liam Elphick strengthens the role that occupational health and safety (OHS) laws can play in preventing sexual harassment and its harm.

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Consumer Product Safety System review should be on the OHS radar

Following on from the product safety theme in yesterday’s article, it is noted that the Australian Treasury has opened a consultation phase on improving the effectiveness of the Consumer Product Safety System. The report makes specific reference to workplace health and safety laws.

This consultation is a direct result of the recent review of Australian Consumer Law:

“The Australian Consumer Law Review final report recommended the introduction of a General Safety Provision (GSP) into the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) requiring traders to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of a product before selling it onto the market.”

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The GSP has similarities to the duties of the PCBU (person conducting a business or undertaking) under the model Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws.

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Looks good but could be better

The Australian Financial Review on October 1 2019 contained an exclusive report on consulting firm (paywalled) Deloitte’s approach to mental health at work matters coinciding with National Safe Work Month. The original document is unlikely to be publicly released but Edmund Tadros‘ report provides some quotes and insights. The initiative seems very positive until you consider it in light of organisational changes recommended to control and prevent this psychological hazards from Safe Work Australia (SWA) guidance.

Tadros quotes Deloitte’s Australian CEO Richard Deutsch:

“Mr Deutsch said in the message that individual differences could mean “what I find stressful you may find motivating, and vice versa. I don’t want anyone to feel their health and wellbeing is compromised because of work”.

This broad statement fits with the employer’s duties under occupational health and safety (OHS) laws, so it’s a good start. But doubts about the strategy start to emerged when Deutsch mentions workload, a contentious issue for Deloitte’s junior staff:

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