ALP’s National Platform and workplace safety

This Sunday SafetyAtWorkBlog will be reporting from the 2018 National Conference of the Australian Labor Party (ALP).  It promises to be extra lively as the country is only a few months away from a General Election and the ALP is tipped by most to win, or rather, the Liberal/National Coalition to lose.  The intention is to watch for discussion of issues that relate to, or affect, the management of worker health and safety.  There will be some, if one accepts that the most effective and sustainable occupational health and safety (OHS) solutions come from both a introduce multidisciplinary approach and that one that looks “at the source” of hazards.

The current draft National platform has a specific chapter on Safety At Work but the document is riddled with safety commitments.  Curiously there is no specific mention of Industrial Manslaughter, although the ALP will

“ensure there are strong deterrents for employers who are responsible for workplace deaths”.

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If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

The trade union movement has often been instrumental in affecting and sometimes creating government policy on occupational health and safety (OHS).  The latest generation of hazards – psychosocial – can be traced back to a survey late last century of workplace stress conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).  This week the ACTU released its survey into sexual harassment at work.

The current survey should not be seen as representative of any social group other than trade union members even though the survey was completed by 10,000 of them.  Also, this survey is far less likely to be as newsworthy as last century’s surveys as the agenda on workplace sexual harassment has already been established by reports from groups like Universities Australia and, especially, the current work by the Sexual Discrimination Commissioner and the Australian Human Rights Commission.  It is also likely to be covered, probably as a secondary issue, in the various mental health inquiries scheduled for 2019.

The ACTU survey provides additional information to our understanding of sexual harassment at work but certainly not the whole picture.

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What will the ALP do for Victoria on OHS?

archive photo of Premier Daniel Andrews

The Victorian Branch of the Australian Labor Party has had its 2018 policy platform available online for sometime.  Given that the State election  is on November 24, 2018 it is timely to look at the ALP’s new, or restated, commitments.

In its section on Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) the ALP claims that its support of WorkSafe Victoria’s

“…behavioural change campaigns has seen a reduction over time in workplace injury and death, however there remain some businesses which continue to show little regard for the safety of their workforce.” (page 17)

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Two exemptions to Victoria’s Industrial Manslaughter laws

Every industry sector should have its own occupational health and safety (OHS) conference.  This allows for specific OHS topics to be presented but also provides for a broader context. The recent conference conducted by the Victorian Branch of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF) was a great example.

So close to a State election and in the lead-up to a Federal election it was not surprising that the trade union movement’s Change The Rules campaign gained attention, as did the push for the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter laws, in the presentation by Dr Paul Sutton.

The main points of his presentation are familiar and have been reported on previously but this presentation included news about two exemptions to the laws which may raise uncomfortable questions. 

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Scissor Lift death findings clarify the context of OHS

If all you knew about occupational health and safety (OHS) was what you read in the physical or online newspapers , you would not know anything about safety management – or maybe anything positive.  It takes being involved with managing safety in the real world to understand how OHS operates in the real world.  But even then we only learn from our own experiences.

The 92-page coronial finding into the death of Jorge Castello-Riffo, released last week, is a tragic and detailed case study of OHS in the real world and should be obligatory reading for OHS professionals and those trying to understand the push for increased OHS, penalties and  corporate accountability.  Below I look at just one section of the Coronial Findings in this article – the Coroner’s responses to a set of proposed recommendations.

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