Tonight, SafetyAtWorkBlog will be attending the launch of a new book that includes personal stories about the 1998 Esso Longford explosion – Workers’ Inferno. The book is being released on the 2oth anniversary of the explosion that killed two workers, injured many others, disrupted gas supplies to the State of Victoria, resulted in a then-record fine for occupational health and safety (OHS) breaches and generated a Royal Commission. It is also, perhaps, the best example of a company trying to blame the worker for a major incident.
The Federal Opposition leader, Bill Shorten, was an official of the Australian Workers Union at the time and today he published an opinion piece Continue reading “Bill Shorten reflects on the Esso Longford disaster”
At Australia’s National Press Club on October 18 207, the Australian Labor Party’s Shadow Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Brendan O’Connor spoke, ostensibly on industrial relations but occupational health and safety (OHS) was mentioned. O’Connor provided several examples of worker exploitation and casual work and then stated
“There is something really wrong when those big, household-name companies apparently feel absolutely no responsibility, or consider themselves immune from reputational risk, for exploitation of the workers on whose labour they make a vast profit. This is why at the last election, Labor promised a National Labour Hire licencing scheme. We said we would issue a licence to only those who have a clean record of complying with employment, tax and OH&S laws, and that licences would be revoked for serious misconduct.”
In the discussions about the regulation of the labour hire industry OHS has been given, comparatively, little attention so it is useful to note even the small amount of prominence granted it by O’Connor.
Australia’s work health and safety (WHS) laws confirmed the modern approach to workplace safety legislation and compliance where workers and businesses are responsible for their own safety and the safety of others who may be affected by the work. The obligations to others existed before the latest WHS law reforms but it was not widely enforced. The
On 6 February 2014 the Victorian Premier. Denis Napthine, announced the intention to
“…require construction companies to implement comprehensive drug and alcohol screening measures to ensure the safety of workers to be eligible to tender for Victorian Government construction contracts.”
This is to be part of the occupational health and safety (OHS) obligations of companies under the Implementation Guidelines to the Victorian Code of Practice for the Building and Construction Industry. Understandably the construction union, particularly, is angry and feels as if it is being singled out. Both organisations have chosen their words very carefully. Premier Napthine is quoted as saying:
“Reports of illicit drug use and distribution on Victorian construction sites are widespread.”
The CFMEU‘s Victorian Secretary John Setka has stated that
“There is no epidemic of drug taking on construction sites…. Our Health and Safety representatives who look out for workers’ health and safety are not reporting a problem.”
It is unlikely there is an epidemic of drug use but the Premier is talking of drugs AND alcohol.