Radio interview on harmonisation of OHS law

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Last week, I had the pleasure of being interviewed byElanor McInerney of the 3CR radio program, Stick Together.  The interview concerned the harmonisation law in Australia and my thoughts on the risks and impacts it would have on Australian business and workers.

The radio program is now available as a podcast  (My part is around the 19 minute mark.) 

Please let me know if I am totally off the beam with my applications of the OHS laws and the political issues.

I thank Elanor and the producers of Stick Together for making this available so soon after the broadcast on 17 May 2009.

Kevin Jones

New Youth@Work website

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The South Australian government has launched a website focusing on young people at work, not surprisingly called Youth@Work.  

South Australia has a habit of marching to a slightly different beat to the dominant Australian States on OHS.  They did not follow WorkSafe Victoria’s “Homecomings” ads and they have been well ahead of anyone in researching and explaining the relevance of wellness as an OHS issue.

Kevin JonesposterA3v6 (2)

“Homecomings” safety ads reach the US

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As mentioned last month in SafetyAtWorkBlog, the Victoria-designed “Homecomings” advertisements are to be launched on United States television.  The Department of Labor & Industries for Washington State announced the ads on 19 May 2009.  According to the DL&I media release

“These ads are particularly effective at bringing home the importance of safety in the workplace and the effects it can have on so many people,” said Don Brunell, president of the Association of Washington Business. “When an accident happens at work, it affects everyone – family, friends and co-workers.”

One ad is available for viewing at http://www.lni.wa.gov/main/worksafe/ 

[It looks like parts needed to be re-filmed to show left-hand drive vehicles and obviously the music rights for Dido’s song couldn’t apply in the US]

Kevin Jones

Political response to new OHS laws for Australia

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The Australian government got what they wanted for the harmonization of OHS laws but some persistent political shenanigans.

Troy Buswell, Western Australia’s Treasurer, is making political mileage with some bluster as the only Australian State run by the Liberal Party.  Politically he could not be seen as following the lead of the Australian Labor Party but will “continue our dialogue with the council”.  He does not have much option particularly as the Federal Workplace Relations Minister, Julia Gillard reminded him that he could risk his access to federal funding by risking a breach of the inter-governmental agreement.  Expect Buswell to concede having saved face.

Joe Tripodi, the New South Wales Finance Minister, has expressed his disappointment.  Tripodi knew what was coming as the compromise options had been flagged long ago.  But from the state that has the most overtly-influenced government, he perhaps had as much face to save as Buswell in WA.  The employers groups in New South must be jumping with joy this morning as one of the most contentious and divisive elements of NSW OHS legislation will go – the union’s right to prosecute.  The process for instigating an OHS prosecution is formalized in the new model OHS legislation and still allows unions to begin prosecutions but with less direct control.

Tim Holding, the Victorian Finance Minister, is having trouble containing his excitement.

“This is a resounding endorsement of Victoria’s OHS laws, which will provide the building blocks for the new national scheme”.

Does anyone wonder why Victorians are so disliked by the other States?  Is Holding’s over-confidence an indication that the Victorian OHS law was always going to be the dominant influence on the national law and perhaps the model OHS Law review was unnecessary for change and just a case of political processes?

In the euphoria, there are some words of caution.  There has always been concern that if any States flexed their muscles and opted-out seriously then true harmonization would not exist and Australia would go back to the fuzzy days of a National OHS Framework that everyone signs up to but does not act upon.  It is likely, with the tough Federal Government approach, that this won’t occur however a spokesperson for the Business Council of Australia is quoted as saying  (page 3 of the Australian Financial Review 19 May 2009, not available online):

“If any states decide to opt out of the process, then we won’t have a fully harmonised system of OHS and that’s bad for business.”

The government’s response to the model OHS Law review is available online or as a page in this blog.

SafetyAtWorkBlog will be updated regularly over the next few days as interesting and relevant opinions and comments become available.

Kevin Jones

Decency at work

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In 2001 the House of Lords was presented with a Dignity At Work Bill.  This seemed a great idea for unifying different elements of the workplace that can contribute to psychosocial hazards.  This would be a similar approach to using “impairment” to cover drugs, alcohol, fatigue and distraction.  However, it never progressed.

Regular readers of SafetyAtWorkBlog would note an undercurrent of humanism in many of the articles but it is heartening to see this in other articles and blogs.  Maud Purcell of Greenwich Times provides an article from early May 2009 on dignity in the workplace in a time of economic turmoil that you may find of interest and use.

Kevin Jones