Australia has entered a federal election campaign, but the mechanics of the Australian parliament continued, and various occupational health and safety (OHS) comments were voiced in Senate Estimates. These comments touched on Industrial Manslaughter, regulations on psychologically safe workplaces and insecure work.
The Australian Federal Budget is to be released very soon. As in every year, corporate and industry lobbyists release wishlist budget submissions even though there is no formal submission process. Sometimes these submissions include information, statements and pitches concerning occupational health and safety (OHS). The Master Builders Australia’s prebudget submission has been around since early January 2022 and the OHS chapter is educative on how the Master Builders Australia (MBA), and perhaps similar organisations, sees and understands OHS.
Australian political debate has a recurring thread of State and Federal responsibility. Currently, this debate focuses on the emergency response for floods in Queensland and New South Wales. Before this was the COVID response and the Black Summer bushfires. This argument over responsibility has trickled along for many years, for Constitutional and other reasons, including occupational health and safety (OHS).
Some years ago, all the Australian governments had a stab at resolving the split without reforming the Constitution through the OHS harmonisation strategy. It tweaked the system without Constitutional reform, but OHS will remain primarily a State and Territory matter (except for Comcare). This allows Prime Minister Scott Morrison to make bold statements (and some not-so-bold) about national problems like sexual harassment in Australian workplaces or worker exploitation in agriculture, understanding that the local jurisdictions are the ones who need to fix and police the problems.
South Australia (SA) goes to an election in March 2022, so it is a good time to examine any occupational health and safety (OHS) policies.
As per usual, the policies of the incumbent Liberal Party government are vague on broad themes like worker safety but can include specific pledges – new roads, better electricity system, for instance. These activities need workers, and Victoria’s infrastructure strategy, its “Big Build“, has performed politically well for Victoria’s Premier Dan Andrews.
The SA branch of the Australian Labor Party has a document of their current policies, and here are some of those related to workplace health and safety:
[Article updated at 5.00pm]
Three Australians have received recognition on today’s Australia Day Honours – Kate Cole, Michelle Baxter and Sharann Johnson for occupational health and safety work, The official citations are for “For service to workplace health and safety”, “For outstanding public service to the health and safety of Australian workplaces and the community, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic” and “For significant service to community health as an occupational hygienist, and to service groups” respectively.
I have never met these recipients, but I have heard several of them speak in various locations and media. The Australia Day process itself provides very little detail of accomplishments, so it is up to each of us to watch for mentions and profiles in the media over the next week or so. To help in this endeavour, below are some relevant links and hashtags.
Many award recipients have affected health and safety conditions in various workplaces. The health care setting and COVID-19 are of particular relevance, but occupational health and safety rarely gets this level of recognition. Often, no one receives an award in this sector, so this year is unique and important.Continue reading “Australia Day and OHS”
Pragmatism was a theme of yesterday’s blog article. On January 19 2022, Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, showed political pragmatism in his press conference. His comments could create more discomfort between State and Federal jurisdiction and more occupational health and safety (OHS) confusion for business owners and employers.
Last week in Devonport, Tasmania, an inflatable jumping castle flew into the air injuring and killing several primary school-aged children. Shortly after Prime Minister Scott Morrison conducted a press conference in conjunction with the Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein and others in which he spoke about the incident and its impact on the local community. It is worth looking at the PM’s comments from an occupational health and safety (OHS) perspective.
Many readers will be aware that fatalities related to inflatable amusement devices becoming airborne are uncommon but not unknown, as the ABC article linked above shows. Most Australian jurisdictions have issued OHS guidelines for amusement devices, including inflatable jumping castles. Here are links to two examples that illustrate the state of knowledge of the risk. This article makes no comment on the OHS circumstances of the Devonport incident.