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.”
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.