ACTU wants Tougher Workplace Safety Laws

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) sees the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program as an opportunity to ensure the safety of workers.

According to ACTU better work safety laws are needed in order to decrease the number of injuries and fatalities in the workplace.

The Assistant Secretary of ACTU Michael Borowick recently said that the Royal Commission’s main focus should be to improve the safety of Australian workers.

Borowick also advised that the Royal Commission recommend the introduction of Industrial Manslaughter legislation and tougher penalties for employers that breach existing legislation. ACTU then called for increased resources to be made available to regulators.

Borowick explained that Industrial Manslaughter laws could change community attitudes around criminally reckless negligence at work and thereby reduce the number of workplace fatalities.

He also called for harsher penalties for employers who breach legislation and risk the safety of their employees. However he warned that regulators need more resources if they are to accomplish their role in ensuring that the strictest safety standards are adhered to.

Ultimately “meaningful reform” can be established by the Royal Commission and the opportunity to do so should not be wasted, he said.

Australian legislation already dictates that all workers who enter into work on a construction site undergo general construction industry induction training in the form of the White Card.

This is the first step to ensuring worker safety in the construction industry. Workers who are untrained are basically stepping onto a construction site unarmed for the hazards and the risks they will exposed to.

In addition to making good safety sense, it is the law. Anyone without a White Card cannot work on a building site regardless of their position or trade.

What does White Card training entail?

There are basically 2 ways you can choose to complete the training – the traditional face to face manner in a classroom like environment or the much simpler and more convenient method of online training.

Obviously the online method is the most popular because it involves the least hassle. Students begin by registering online and making the payment of just [price]. Thereafter you complete the course online, all you need is a computer with internet access, a printer and a phone to finish the course.

There are 2 assessments involved, an online assessment divided into 4 sections and a verbal telephone based assessment. The online assessment is comprehensive and most students take just 3 hours to complete it but you can choose to complete it at your own pace all at once or smaller chunks over a period of time.

Once the online part of the assessments is complete, you make a phone call using our 1300 number and speak to one of our assessors who administer the verbal assessment. This part of the training takes only a few minutes to complete and once done, you are well on your way to working on a construction site.

All that’s left is for you to fill in a form and upload it to our system with a certified copy of your ID. We will dispatch your White Card in the mail within a few days. For more information or to register visit our homepage today!

Unions against Proposed Changes to QLD OHS Safety Laws

Unions in Queensland are outraged by proposed changes which were made by the Attorney General recentlyto the occupational health and safety laws. The changes would mean that unions who wish to inspect safety breaches on work sites will have to wait a whole 24 hours before they are allowed to access construction sites, something the unions say will compromise safety.

The aim of the changes according to a representative is to give government safety regulators time to deal with safety issues and to access it first before the unions can step in and takeover, however union bosses are very concerned by the proposed changes.

The president of the Queensland Council of Unions, John Battams, believes that lives will be endangered if unions are forced to give notice before entering worksites because employers will have forewarning to be able to simply cover up their safety neglect.

According to an article on http://ohspolicy.com.au companies are welcoming the proposal while unions have warned against it. This excerpt from the article explains,

The purpose of these changes, according to Jarrod Bleijie, is to make sure that all safety issues are dealt with by the government’s safety regulator and to “stop unions hijacking work sites.”

The Property Council has welcomed the proposal union bosses are concerned.

John Battams, the president of the Queensland Council of Unions, said that lives will be put at risk if usions are forced to give notice before entering worksites as employers will have time to cover up dangerous practices.

He said that 24 hours gives employers plenty of time to “hide what would be otherwise obvious dangerous situations.”

Source: http://ohspolicy.com.au/proposed-changes-to-qld-ohs-safety-laws-will-risk-lives-according-to-union/

The unions fear that those “cowboys” in the building industry who are still putting productivity before safety are going to benefit from the proposed changes because they will be able to commit safety atrocities and workers will pay, with no hope of help from unions who will be barred from the workplace until it is too late to make a difference.

Michael Ravbar of the CFMEU said that safety would be likely to decrease while accidents would undoubtedly increase if the proposal was to be implemented.

It seems the Queensland construction sector safety has become a serious issue especially because this year has seen an increase in fatalities. Although the increase was minimal (only 2 more workers died this year as compared to last year), even one life is one too many. This year alone 9 people have died while working on building sites in the state.

The number of workers suffering hand injuries and other diseases seems to have fallen according to figures provided by Safe Work Australia.

The article goes on to explain:

Michael Ravbar, the CFMEU secretary said that though most builders valued safety over profits there are still those that are considered cowboys and rednecks who don’t.

He said that the proposed changes would cause safety to decrease, fatalities increase along with accidents.

However, according to Mr Bleijie it is the unions that are hurting workers by causing them to be locked out of workplaces.

Source: http://ohspolicy.com.au/proposed-changes-to-qld-ohs-safety-laws-will-risk-lives-according-to-union/

ACTU Calls for Better Safety Laws to reduce injuries

More than half a million workers are injured in Australia every year and over 100,000 of those injuries are serious. It is for this reason that ACTU has called on the government to introduce better safety laws to protect workers and reduce injuries. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has accused the Queensland government of doing just the opposite with the recent discussions of changing right of entry laws to limit access to worksites, a move the unions say will make workers more vulnerable instead of empowering and protecting them.

According to ACTU head Ged Kearney more must be done to prevent injuries on Australian worksites. More than 600,000 injuries a year is unacceptable and is costing the Australian economy over $60 billion a year.

Kearney says that thousands of workers are being fatally injured from preventable factors, which is an indication that more vigilance is necessary, but Kearney says the government is heading in the opposite direction, causing less vigilance.

She says there aren’t enough inspectors and they are unable to visit anywhere near the number of workplaces required. Fines and prosecutions are extremely low compared with the number of injuries and deaths. While employer fines run into only $22 million, the cost of injury claims in Australia is in the billions.

The following excerpt from an article on www.TheAustralian.com.au explains:

WORKPLACE safety laws in Australia need to be further strengthened to reduce the death and injury toll, unions say.

ACTU president Ged Kearney says more than 600,000 workers are injured every year in Australia, costing the country $60 billion.

“Thousands of workers are injured or killed from preventable factors and that tells us we need to be much more vigilant, not less which is the direction we are heading,” Ms Kearney said.

The ACTU on Tuesday hosted its health and safety conference in Adelaide with union representatives from across the country.

It was told that there in addition to a shortage of workplace inspectors, fines and the number of prosecutions for workplace safety issues remain low.

See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/unions-want-better-safety-laws/story-fn3dxiwe-1226740379287#sthash.OkBeim0l.dpuf

The ACTU president also reiterated that workplace safety provisions should be encouraging workers to speak up about safety issues rather than try to silence them, which is what they say limiting access to sites would do. She also reminded everyone that employers, government and unions need to work together to ensure workplace safety.

One of the problems that are also giving rise to workplace injuries is the number of workers who are afraid to speak out against dangerous practices because of fear for their jobs, thereby endangering their own lives in the process. The post goes on to explain:

She says the rise of casual or contract work is also a concern.

“People in insecure work are too frightened to speak up about safety in case they lose their job,” she said.

See more at: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/latest-news/unions-want-better-safety-laws/story-fn3dxiwe-1226740379287#sthash.OkBeim0l.dpuf

Kearney says that employers who fail to protect workers by implementing appropriate safety procedures on purpose should be fined and prosecuted and those that fail to do so because of ignorance should receive more guidance. Either way government needs to work together with employers and unions to improve workplace safety.