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.
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.
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.