WORK­OUT Uni­form, na­tion­wide OH&S laws flagged

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Career One -

LONG-TERM and na­tion­wide change in oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety leg­is­la­tion is likely fol­low­ing the re­cent an­nounce­ment by the Rudd Gov­ern­ment of a na­tional re­view into model OHS laws with the spe­cific aim of all state and ter­ri­tory gov­ern­ments ‘‘ har­mon­is­ing’’ within five years.

All gov­ern­ments have agreed that a model prin­ci­pal OHS Act, with model reg­u­la­tions and model codes of prac­tice — to be leg­is­lated by each state — is the way for­ward.The re­view will re­port by Jan­uary 30.

Michael Tehan of law firm Min­terEl­li­son says some states have been im­prov­ing their OH&S laws for some time, but na­tion­ally con­sis­tent law is still some years away. He says, for ex­am­ple, that it is just over three years since ma­jor re­forms of oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety law were en­acted in Vic­to­ria, and that th­ese have played a sig­nif­i­cant part in im­prov­ing work­place safety.

Last fi­nan­cial year, for the first time in five years, fewer than 30,000 work­place in­jury claims were made. The rate of claims fell from 12.19 per 1,000 work­ers in 2005-06 to 11.32 in 2006-07.

He says em­ploy­ers have seen a bot­tom-line im­prove­ment too: in the same pe­riod the av­er­age work­ers’ com­pen­sa­tion pre­mium rate has fallen.

He at­tributes part of the im­prove­ment to the le­gal ‘‘ stick’’ used by Work­Safe Vic­to­ria. One of the re­forms has been a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in penal­ties for breaches of OH&S law. The max­i­mum penalty in Vic­to­ria for a cor­po­ra­tion is now nearly $1 mil­lion.

Oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety law in Aus­tralia varies from state to state and words used to ex­press the wishes of par­lia­ments are not pre­cisely the same, nor is the em­pha­sis in each state iden­ti­cal. Com­pli­ance mech­a­nisms vary, as do penal­ties.

But a key con­cept in OH&S leg­is­la­tion is the im­po­si­tion of gen­eral du­ties on em­ploy­ers, self­em­ployed peo­ple and those man­ag­ing or con­trol­ling work­places, among oth­ers, to pro­vide and main­tain a work­ing en­vi­ron­ment that is safe and with­out risks to health.

De­ter­min­ing, iden­ti­fy­ing and un­der­stand haz­ards and risks can be chal­leng­ing, but com­mon anayl­y­sis meth­ods in­clude: Like­li­hood of the risk or haz­ard, The de­gree of harm that would re­sult,

What is known or ought to be known about the haz­ard or risk and ways to elim­i­nate or re­duce it,

The avail­abil­ity and suit­abil­ity of ways to elim­i­nate or re­duce the risk, and

The cost of elim­i­nat­ing or re­duc­ing the risk.

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