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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New structure needed for Australia’s OHS policies

A day out from Australia’s election and the discussion has been sidetracked by the death last night of prominent Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, but occupational health and safety (OHS) continues to be mentioned obliquely by some of the candidates. The other day, Bill Shorten’s OHS mentions were reported on. Prime Minister Scott Morrison and one of his Ministers, Michaelia Cash, also made mention of safety and OHS overnight.

Alice Springs, AUSTRALIA – Sep 29, 2017: 3 trailer Australian road train driving along Stuart Highway near Alice Springs in Northern Territory, Australia

Regardless of who wins tomorrow’s election, inspirational leadership is needed to apply a revised structure on how the government influences and regulates OHS, especially in the transport sector.

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Beware any politician talking about the coloured tapes of bureaucracy

Some of the Australian media on May 8 2019 began quoting the current Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, over his concerns about the “green tape” of environmental laws and something called “the expansion of union “red tape””. (Nine Australia’s papers, paywalled) Crikey’s Bernard Keane asks “Does Australia really have a ‘green tape’ crisis?” (paywalled) and proceeds to answer, No we don’t. But where there is Green Tape, the Red Tape of occupational health and safety (OHS) follows.

What Morrison means by “union red tape” is unclear. The newspapers included this quote from him:

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Young worker’s death increases OHS pressure on State and Federal governments

This week an 18-year-old construction worker died in a scaffold collapse on a New South Wales construction site. The occupational health and safety (OHS) regulator has instigated an investigation into Christopher Cassaniti’s death and the serious injury of a work colleague in the same incident, as well as an inspection of scaffolding throughout the State.

An excellent podcast on the incident and the OHS context is available at Triple J’s Hack podcast.

In May 2019 Australia has a general election and, following yesterday’s Budget announcement, Australian politicians are in campaign mode. That might seem irrelevant to the workplace death of a young man but the Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Brendan O’Connor, was interviewed the day after Cassaniti’s death by Triple J’s Hack program. The discussion eventually reached Industrial Manslaughter laws.

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