OHS outcomes of ACTU Congress 2018

Below is the list of occupational health and safety (OHS) issues for the next three years, put to the Australian Council of Trade Unions and passed, at its Congress on 18 July 2018.  Some were expected but others will cause concern, primarily, for business owners.  Perhaps the major concern is that these commitments are to be rolled out nationally.

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Trade unions need to look for change beyond legislation

Danny Glover addressing the ACTU Congress on July 16 2018

The 2018 Congress of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACT) is happening in the middle of a campaign to “Change the Rules”.  These “Rules” are largely concerning with industrial relations, of which Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) is a subset, or complementary, element. Legislation constantly needs challenging and review; much legislation, like Australian Standards, misses their expiry dates and persists too long,  becoming increasingly seen as irrelevant.

OHS has the “luxury” of having been reviewed nationally within the last decade.  For some Australian States this change was progressive but for most it was a catch up to contemporary standards and expectations.  OHS laws have not progressed since and a lot of hope is placed on the current Independent Review of Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws to enliven the discussions, yet that report is not due until 2019.

Trade unions have a great deal of faith in legislation to achieve change.  

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Duty of Care to the safety and health of “others”.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) has released a very good report about Australia’s immigration detention centres which includes a long discussion on duty of care to detainees under Common Law. The report, “In Poor Health: Health care in Australian immigration detention” does not include any discussion on the duty of care under work health and safety (WHS) legislation however it can be argued that the Australian Government, through its supply chain, chain of responsibility and contract management, also has a duty of care to detainees under health and safety laws.

Several recent legal actions and workplace safety guidance indicates that clarification about the duty of care on physical and psychological risks to “others” is overdue.

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ACCC slaps down the FCAI on quad bike safety

On June 5 2018, Sharon O’Keeffe of the North Queensland Register newspaper aired the response of the Deputy Commissioner of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Mick Keogh to claims from the Federated Chamber of Automotive Industries (FCAI) on the safety of quad bikes and crush protection devices (CPDs). O’Keeffe says “the gloves are off”.

In March 2018, the ACCC announced its intention for a mandatory safety standard for quad bikes, or All Terrain Vehicles (ATV,) that included CPDs. 

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Why are we arguing about Industrial Manslaughter laws?

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From left: Dave Brownlee, Janine Brownlee & Lana Cormie

On the issue of Industrial Manslaughter laws, Lana Cormie (pictured far right) said:

“Employers need to have motivation to do the right thing, ’cause clearly they don’t do it off their own back.  So, if that means, if this’ll be the difference between them making OH&S a high priority and not, then it needs to be done.  And I think all the other benefits for the men on the ground, and the women on the ground, will filter down from that.  “

Her comments on International Workers Memorial Day emphasises that the introduction of these laws is not so much about new laws but the failure of the existing ones and of their application.  Over time, the general commitment to implementing occupational health and safety (OHS) has declined in many workplaces or, at least, has not progressed in the way expected by the safety law makers of the 1970s and 1980s.

Government has relied on the increase of financial penalties as the major deterrent Continue reading “Why are we arguing about Industrial Manslaughter laws?”