Religious wisdom on workplace safety 3

It is rare to visit the Bible when thinking about occupational health and safety but this week Australia’s Uniting Church, its Creative Ministries Network and the United Voices trade union released a report on the working condition of shopping centre cleaners.  In the report “Cutting Corners” there are many references to the Bible’s and the Church’s thoughts and actions on labour issues.

For instance, according to the report:

“…God is ‘against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow and the orphan’ (Malachi 3:5).”


“…the Prophet Muhammad underlined the importance of the just wage by saying, ‘give the employee his wages before his sweat has had time to dry’.”

The Uniting Church has strong arguments to justify its involvement in social equity matters.

“Cutting Corners” was a broad report based on hundreds of telephone interviews with cleaners.  The major safety-related findings of the survey were:

“The key violations borne by shopping centre cleaners constitute a litany of injustices, from low rates of pay, pay that is not commensurate with their More…

OHS objectors get support from South Australia parliamentarian 8

The last seven days has seen many of the conservative speakers express concerns or objections to the Australian government’s close-to-completed process for harmonising workplace safety laws.  Although one may not agree with the objections, in most cases there is some ideological sense.  On 15 September 2011, South Australia’s shadow Minister for Industrial Relations (IR), Rob Lucas, launched a broadside attack on the OHS laws but with dubious claims.

Lucas’ media release states that

“There is growing opposition to Labor’s proposed bill from industry and business organisations such as Business SA, Master Builders Association, Housing Industry Association, Motor Trade Association, Self Insurers of SA and the Australian Hotels Association.

“The Liberal Opposition believes this bill is a massive full frontal assault on subcontractors and small business in SA which will lead to significant increases in house prices,” Shadow Industrial Relations Minister Rob Lucas said.

“For example, the HIA have estimated the new laws will increase costs by $12,000 for a single story construction and approximately $20,000 for a double story construction.”

The $A20,000 claim has been used by the HIA in the past in South Australia .  A former (Labor) IR minister, Paul Caica, was confronted by the claim in 2008.  The costs seemed to concern the provision of scaffolding on domestic construction sites for work above two metres but no clarification was made publicly.

In May 2011, SafetyAtWorkBlog investigated the $A20,000 claim.  The claim  was quoted at the time by Rob Lucas in a media statement.  The blog article in May said:

“On looking for the evidence on the potential business costs, an HIA spokesperson has advised SafetyAtWorkBlog that no figures were provided by the HIA to the minister for this media statement.  The spokesperson said that the cost figures may have been extracted from earlier submissions to government.” More…

Safety costs of harmonised laws revealed 5

The Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) on Australia’s Work Health and Safety laws has been released and will be available through the Safe Work Australia website shortly (probably today given the media attention).  Much attention will be given to the cost estimates of the laws’ introduction but the 336-page RIS seen by SafetyAtWorkBlog  emphasises in the Executive Summary that

“While monetary values of impacts are estimated and an appropriate sensitivity analysis is undertaken, these results should be treated with some caution given the uncertainties associated with estimating changes in work health and safety benefits. Greater weight should be given to the general direction that the estimates suggest is the likely outcome from these reforms.”

This important point is likely to be lost in some of the expected argy-bargy over economic impacts and cost v benefit.

The core figures provided in the RIS are:

“While there will be one‐off implementation costs, the quantitative analysis undertaken at the national level for adopting the model WHS Regulations indicates net benefits (i.e. after implementation costs) of around $250 million per annum to the Australian economy over each of the next 10 years. This estimate does not include expected productivity benefits. While noting the difficulties More…

Regulatory Impact Statement to be released on 14 September 2011 1

According to a media release from Senator Chris Evans, the Australian Minister for Workplace Relations,  the Regulatory Impact Statement for the new OHS regulations will be released today, 14 September 2011.  The release is not yet publicly available on-line so the full text is included below:

New health and safety regulations to boost national productivity

“Historic health and safety reforms will deliver up to $2 billion a year in productivity gains Minister for Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans said today.

The Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) for the harmonisation of health and safety regulations released today confirms the economic benefit of a national OHS system and demonstrates that the reforms are on track to be implemented by 1 January 2012.

“The Statement vindicates COAG’s decision in 2008, and the Gillard Government’s determination to pursue OHS harmonisation as a key economic reform,” Senator Evans said. More…

Alarmism and confusion over Australia’s OHS harmonisation process Reply

The Australian Financial Review (AFR) on 13 September 2011 is muddying the waters on objections to Australian harmonised OHS laws.  The Victorian Government would support a delay to the introduction of the laws until, according to previous media reports, the release of the Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) on the new laws.  The AFR is reporting (not available online without a subscription) that the government

“…will not endorse the regulations until the federal government releases a cost-benefit analysis.”

It is understood that an RIS is not the same as a cost-benefit analysis even though costs and benefits are part of an RIS.

Australia’s Office of Best Practice Regulation (OPBR) states that an RIS has seven (7) key elements:

  • “the problem or issues which give rise to the need for action; More…