Thinking beyond one’s role on OHS

“My approach tends to be revolutionary.”

A major criticism of the Australian Prime Minister’s handling of the current bushfire disaster in South-east Australia is that he was reluctant to engage in the fire fighting or relief effort. Scott Morrison’s reason was valid – firefighting responsibilities sit with the States and Territories. The Federal Government has no direct role in this.

Australian politics, and progress, continues to be hampered by the Constitutional demarcation of National and States rights and obligations, but Morrison missed the point. One does not have to be directly involved in an event to show support and leadership, and leadership can be effective in a secondary, support role. This is equally the case for occupational health and safety (OHS).

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Annual Reports are not as transparent on OHS performance as they could be

Around four or five years ago, occupational health and safety (OHS) reporting in Corporate Annual Reports was a hot topic as Australian research had indicated that Annual Reports were not revealing sufficient, or useful, OHS data. Also awards were being presented for the best OHS reporting in Annual Reports. SafetyAtWorkBlog has looked at a sample of the reports released by the Victorian Government over the last fortnight to see what OHS information is available.

Two major keywords were used to search the Annual Reports – “Safe” and “Well”. These words form the stemS of other search terms such as “safety” and “wellbeing” or “wellness”. Each of the word responses were looked at for a focus on workplace or work-related activity. Although public safety may have an increasing OHS context, public safety, and a range of other “safeties”, were not included.

Some Annual Reports were okay, others? Egh! But what is clear is that there is no excuse.

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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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New OHS infringement notices for WorkSafe Victoria, according to Budget Papers

The Victorian Government released its State Budget on May 27, 2019. The Budget Papers include some references to occupational health and safety (OHS).

Infringement Notices

The Budget Papers state that new infringement notices will be available for WorkSafe Victoria to use.

“Workplace safety will be improved through the introduction of infringement notices for a range of occupational health and safety offences, adding to the suite of compliance and enforcement tools available to WorkSafe Victoria.”

page 88 – Budget Paper 3 – Service Delivery
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OHS is largely overlooked even on its special day

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.

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