20th January 2014, Melbourne, Australia: Prior to 2012, each state operated under different OHS laws, when the 2011 Work Health and Safety Act was introduced to ensure that each state took a harmonised approach to Work Health and Safety. Yet the state of Victoria, along with Western Australia is still yet to adopt the Work Health Safety Act.
Currently Victoria is still compliant with the OHS Act 2004, with the Victorian Government vocal about that fact that they will not change over to the WHS Act. In his budget speech 2012 The Hon Kim Wells MP, Treasurer of Victoria said “The Government will not sign up to the current proposal for harmonised legislation for occupational health and safety. It offers little benefit for Victoria to offset the $3.4 billion of estimated costs, the majority of which falls on small business. Victoria will continue to work towards best practice legislation.”
Based on Comcare’s comparison of the WHS Act and OHS Act in relation to the construction industry, the main differences seem to be that the WHS Act is very comprehensive and doesn’t allow room for grey areas like the OHS Act does. Many comments have been made around the fact that Australian businesses should adopt a “best practice” approach rather than worrying about differences between the Acts. However, there are still key areas that are different in the new WHS Act; including the meaning of ‘director and officer duties’ and ‘consultation’.
Workplace injuries occur in all industries; nevertheless, they are extremely prevalent within the Victorian Construction industry. Worksafe Victoria statistics state that “every week, 50 Victorian construction workers are seriously injured and have to stop work, often because basic site safety is not up to scratch”. According to Worksafe Victoria “The Victorian construction industry employs around 225,000 Victorian workers – one of the state’s fastest growing industries”. Based on these findings it’s evident that the state of Victoria still has a long way to go to ensure safety precautions are taken to avoid construction injuries.
Workplace health and safety issues and hazards are not always the fault of the employee often the organisation is at fault as they have not carried out proper due diligence to ensure work site safety standards are up to scratch. Other factors that contribute to these issues and hazards include when a worker is affected by drugs and/or alcohol. Organisations that employee foreign workers can put themselves at risk if they don’t extend OHS education to foreign workers about Australian Safety Standards.
Rather than just ensuring compliance with the OHS law, organisations must embed a safety culture into their organisation; rather than just ensuring compliance with OHS law. It isn’t enough to say you’re taking a best practice approach when it comes to Safety. The Victorian Safety in Construction Conference will address ‘Why Victoria will not adopt the new WHS Harmonisation Laws?’ Participants will also hear about ‘Identifying Safety Risks on a Major Construction Project Site.’
The Victorian Safety in Construction Conference fosters an environment for key stakeholders from the Victorian construction industry to gather and discuss the issues at hand. Some of the industry leaders presenting at this Conference include: Kate Smolenski, OHS Manager, Lend Lease, Sarah Quinton & Walter Caoduro, HSE Managers, Probuild Victoria and Geoff Thomas, Regional SHE Manager, Southern, Leighton Contractors.
More information on the Victorian Safety in Construction Conference 2014 can be found at www.safetyaus.com.au.