The workplace death of Jorge Castillo-Riffo continues to raise important discussions about occupational health and safety (OHS), responsibility and accountability. The South Australian parliament discussed scissor lifts and OHS on June 6 2019. The criticism of the Coroner was concerning and the debate was a sadly typical political discussion but the issue of improving OHS in construction sites has not been forgotten by some South Australia politicians.
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.
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.
The Victorian Government has announced that various safety initiatives are being taken on the silicosis risks associated with products described as synthetic stone. This initiative is an important first step in reducing the exposure of workers to silicosis but there are some curiosities in the announcement and WorkSafe Victoria’s accompanying Information Sheet.
The core elements of the government’s action are:
- “A state-wide ban on uncontrolled dry cutting of materials that contain crystalline silica dust
- Free health screening for Victoria’s 1400 stonemasons
- A tough new compliance code for businesses working with silica
- An awareness campaign to highlight the risks of working with engineered stone”.
The mainstream media did cover the Australian Labor Party’s statement about workplace safety and industrial manslaughter laws. These issues also featured, unsurprisingly, in some of the commemorations on International Workers Memorial Day. But the issue was largely left floating, irretrievable in the political swimming pool.
David Martin-Guzman, writing for the Australian Financial Review (AFR), painted the ALP announcement as advocating on behalf Australia’s most militant trade union, the Construction Forestry Mining Maritime and Energy Union (CFMEU). This approach sadly places any OHS activity purely in the context of industrial relations. That is likely placing OHS as only part of Human Resources. OHS is its own profession, has its own principles and is supported by its own legislation and government regulator.
The West Australian Government has released its the report on its Ministerial Review of the State Industrial Relations System. There are a few interesting bits that relate to occupational health and safety (OHS) and bullying.
The Fair Work Commission has been able to accept applications to stop workplace bullying for a few years now. Western Australia’s State system will soon also allow this, if the Government accepts the recommendations, but workplace bullying is a little different from the OHS approach. The report says: