Australian politician jumps on possible OHS concession from Government 1

Politics has again entered the OHS harmonisation debate in Australia.  Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Chris Evans, issued a statement on 10 November 2011, part of which that has been pounced on by the Opposition and slightly twisted by the online media.

“Senator Evans also announced that transitional arrangements for the model OHS laws have been developed by Safe Work Australia to assist businesses to move to the new harmonised arrangements.

“The transitional arrangements will apply to the model OHS Regulations and provide delayed commencement of up to 12 months or more where the new laws result in a new or significantly different set of duties,” Senator Evans said.

“The developments of sensible transitional arrangements are part and parcel of any new laws.”

The Shadow Minister for Workplace Relations, Eric Abetz, quickly responded with a media release of his own.

“Minister Evans has today conceded that businesses will be able to delay implementing new national health and safety laws by up to 12 months if the regulations result in them having to undertake significant change.  Given that almost every business will have to make significant change, this is the Minister’s back door way of delaying the laws implementation.”

It is important to read the entirety of Senator Evans statement as it reiterates some of the points that SafetyAtWorkBlog reported on several weeks ago.   More…

Small fine of $1250 but important safety lessons 3

An OHS fine of $A1250 hardly seems newsworthy but several important issues are illustrated by a prosecution in Western Australia on 10 November 2011, particularly, individual responsibility and accountability.

WorkSafe WA has released details of a prosecution against an individual worker over the fall of material from 15 metres towards fellow construction workers.  The media release (not yet available online) says that

“In July 2009, Mr Bell was employed by Perth Rigging Company Pty Ltd on a site at Naval Base where steel roof sections were being placed on concrete silos. He was in charge of arranging how the steel roof sections would be lifted into place.

The first roof section had been placed on one of the silos, and the second section (which was 18 meters long, six metres wide and weighed more than 10 tonnes) was to be lifted onto another of the silos.

Perth Rigging did not have available the necessary rigging equipment to lift this roof section, and the site supervisor offered to obtain this equipment. The offer was accepted, but Mr Bell did not stipulate what rigging equipment was required. More…

Australia releases official statistics into work-related injuries 12

Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in early November 2011 has revealed that 18.5% of people injured at work in 2009-10 received no OHS training prior to the incident.

The basic findings of the 2009-10 data are not all new as a December 2010 media release shows but the new report, “6324.0 – Work-Related Injuries, Australia, 2009-10” does include new data on OHS training.

Most of the OHS training data is included in table 13 but other tables should not be overlooked.  Table 3 shows that of those injured in 2009-10:

“82% (522,400) had received occupational health and safety training in the job prior to their work-related injury or illness occurring…”

and that 18.5% did not.

A legitimate question is “what is meant by occupational health and safety training?”   More…

Australia inactive on environmental tobacco smoke 1

Safe Work Australia has released a couple of packages of draft codes of practice in line with the Australian Government’s OHS harmonisation strategy but where is the code that addresses the established risk of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) or second-hand smoke?  This is a question that was asked during the recent Safe Work Australia week by Smoke Free Australia, an alliance of employee and health groups.

Smoke Free’s media release stated that

“….thousands of Australians are working in areas contaminated by highly toxic, carcinogenic tobacco smoke – and Safe Work Australia has done nothing to prevent it”

Stafford Sanders, the coordinator for Smoke Free Australia, was struggling to understand why ETS had not been given prominence in the new draft codes of practice given that second-hand smoke is a known killer. More…

Bullying has many causes and too many avenues of appeal 2

On 18 October 2011, there was a brief discussion on workplace bullying in the ACT Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT).  The question to Chief Minister Katy Gallagher, stemmed, ostensibly, from a recent WorkSafe ACT assessment of Canberra restaurants and food retailers.  The assessment identified that:

“… only 66 per cent of food outlets were compliant with workplace bullying regulations.”

Such a statement needs considerable explanation to be of use in safety management but it led to a further question from Greens MP Meredith Hunter, one which indicates the confused status of workplace bullying control options.

“Minister, what consideration has the ACT government given to bullying as a ground for discrimination under the ACT’s Discrimination Act, which would give complainants and respondents to bullying complaints access to the Human Rights Commission’s investigation and conciliation functions and clear remedies for victimisation of a person making a complaint?”

It is unreasonable to expect that a Code of Practice on workplace bullying drafted under OHS laws would have the capacity to control the hazard, or provide sufficient guidance, when there are other avenues for restitution that are far more involved, such as discrimination and human rights commissions and tribunals. More…