“a COVID safe workplace” – Mark 2

Less than 12 hours after not mentioning Safe Work Australia’s COVID19 occupational health and safety (OHS) guidance, the Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, Michaelia Cash, issues a media release, in conjunction with the Minister for Industrial Relations, Christian Porter, saying that

“The Safe Work Australia (SWA) website has been transformed into a centralised information hub, which can be easily searched using a handy content filter to find work health and safety guidance relevant to 23 specific industries.”

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Workers and COVID19 survey

Last week the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) released some research into workers and COVID19. It is not peer-reviewed and there will certainly be much more research into the disruption and personal and occupational responses to the coronavirus disruption over the next few months. The survey results do not specifically analyse occupational health and safety (OHS) issues but there are clues to future considerations.

The media release, understandably, discusses the changed employment status or arrangements. The OHS hazards associated with precarious work are well-established and the survey illustrates the extent of precarity in Australian workplace, so mental health issues are going to come to the fore as government-imposed isolation continues and/or businesses reopen.

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Ethics, safety and fingertips

Last week the Australian Institute of Health and Safety (AIHS) launched its Body of Knowledge Chapter on Ethics in Melbourne to a small group of occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals. Participants were asked to outline an ethical challenge they had faced as OHS professionals.

In that same week, WorkSafe Victoria issued a media release that showed a poor follow-through by a business on advice from an OHS professional.

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COSBOA is outraged over mental health and jail

On September 24 2019, the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) called for the withdrawal of the Boland review into Australia’s work health and safety (WHS) laws.

In a media release COSBOA’s CEO, Peter Strong, states:

“The report solely focusses on workers, giving zero consideration to the mental health of employers and the self-employed….”

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Industrial Manslaughter submissions

The issue of Industrial Manslaughter laws continues in Victoria. Several organisations were invited to provide submissions to the Victorian Government’s task force formed to look at the implementation of these laws. Three of those submissions have been seen by SafetyAtWorkBlog:

Joint Submission

The joint submission states that

“The laws will also improve health and safety outcomes in workplaces by providing a real deterrent to employers who are tempted to cut corners on health and safety.”

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Robbing Peter to pay Paul – the “WorkSafe Tax” is challenged

More details of the “WorkSafe Tax” and WorkSafe Victoria’s new infringement notices and specialist construction inspectors emerged with the appearance of the Minister for Workplace Safety, Jill Hennessy, at the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee hearing on June 14 2019.

Liberal Member of Parliament, Richard Riordan went to town on the Minister. He opened with this question:

“….I refer to budget paper 5, page 23, which shows you are ripping $700 million out of the WorkCover Authority over the forward estimates. How does taking such a massive dividend tax to the government help workplace safety?”

page 5, Verified Transcript

But this issue has been bubbling along since at least 2011 when the now Premier, Daniel Andrews, vehemently opposed it.

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In an industry where there are no employers, who is responsible for workplace health and safety?

The Victorian Government has been running an inquiry for a little while on the “on-demand workforce”, a term which seems to be a synonym for the gig economy. The government recently extended the deadline for public submissions. This is often a sign that inquiries are struggling for information which is almost an inevitable consequence if you schedule an inquiry over the Christmas/New Year break.

This inquiry has direct relevance to occupational health and safety (OHS) and vice versa.

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