Public Service Workload

At the moment in Australia there are political statements and arguments about the substantially increased workload that the newly-appointed Labor Government is placing on public servants. There are accusations that leaks have occurred from the public service as a protest to the long working hours that the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, expects.  Working hours that, it should be said,…

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Safety, Whistleblowers and Media Disinterest

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Workplace safety usually gets little attention from mainstream press.  Until recently, with the growth of online specialist content, trade publications covered OHS events, but the lead time made the news events of historical interest more than something that generated enthusiasm or outrage.

Last weekend the Australian Labor Party in Victoria held its annual conference in Melbourne.  The Premier, John Brumby, stated that workplace safety was of continuing high concern to his government.  This comment was reported nowhere other than the Sunday night (25 May 2008 ) news bulletin of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The ABC news website has mentioned other comments that the Premier made at the conference:

“It’s vital for workers and for occupational health and safety representatives that they can raise safety issues without suffering recrimination or discrimination,” he said. “Because if people can’t speak up, then people’s lives can be put at risk.”

The comment is very welcome but why make such a statement now? Has an OHS whistleblowing incident happened recently? No.  Has the issue been a sore political point? No.

Given that neither the ALP or the Premier’s office has released the Premier’s speech almost a week after the event, it can only be assumed that the comments were intended for the union audience at the conference and were said, mainly, to have something to say.

His comments are a reiteration of party policy and any support for OHS is welcome but if anyone makes a positive comment on workplace safety, let them be loud and proud about it.  The OHS profession and worker safety needs the profile.

Political jostling on OHS reform

The national review into OHS law in Australia has started to generate political jostling as individual states start to realise exactly what they may be asked to relinquish. All government departments and jurisdictions try to maintain their authority, influence and turf and the concern with this OHS review is that it may introduce reforms, or at least tweaks, that could derail the more politically important and controversial changes to industrial relations.

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The national review into OHS law in Australia has started to generate political jostling as individual states start to realise exactly what they may be asked to relinquish. All government departments and jurisdictions try to maintain their authority, influence and turf and the concern with this OHS review is that it may introduce reforms, or at least tweaks, that could derail the more politically important and controversial changes to industrial relations.

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Coroner Critical of OHS Regulator in Mine Investigation

In an AAP report on 21 May 2008, the Tasmanian coroner has been highly critical of the OHS legislative regime applicable to Tasmanian mines.  His comments have particular relevance during Australia’s national review of OHS law and as the coronial inquest into the Beaconsfield mining disaster is due to start within the next six months….

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Safety – on the fringe again

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The Australian government has established an Australian Social Inclusion Board.  This is what the government says is the purpose and challenges of the Board:

This social exclusion is a significant barrier to sustained prosperity and restricts Australia’s future economic growth.

Promoting social inclusion requires a new way of governing. Australia must rethink how policy and programs across portfolios and levels of government can work together to combat economic and social disadvantage.

The Australian Social Inclusion Board which brings together leaders from around the country, will be instrumental in meeting this challenge.

Tackling disadvantage involves generating effective, practical solutions at the level of government, local communities, of service providers, employers and of families and individuals themselves.

The Australian Social Inclusion Board will consult widely and provide views and advice to the Government.

I am glad that consultation will be broad.  Narrow consultation, even in a tripartite structure, is often found to be too narrow and anti-inclusion.  It is acknowledged that as good as broad consultation is, change and influence comes from having a seat at the table.  I find it disappointing that an independent voice for occupational safety and health is not at the table given the higher rate of death and injury in workplaces of young workers, workers from outside Australia and workers with a poor command of the English language.

It would have been good to see the Australian government look beyond an artificial demarcation of work and non-work.  The OHS profession and OHS legislation dumped this demarcation several years ago when we started to deal with psycho-social hazards in the workplace and the impact of workplace hazards on non-work activities.

If there is not a seat at the table, given that the Minister for Social Inclusion is also the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and that the board’s Chair, Ms Patricia Faulkner  had an OHS role in the early 1990’s, I would expect safety (both occupational and non-occupational) to be a fixture on the board’s agenda.